Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo has admitted that Barcelona star Lionel Messi "will always be on the list" of players of interest to the French champions and that "a seat is reserved" in the event that the legendary Argentine leaves Camp Nou.
Messi, 33, is free to negotiate with interested clubs at present ahead of a potential free transfer move this summer and he is expected to wait to see the outcome of the next presidential election at Barcelona before deciding on his next move.
1 - After 753 appearances in all competitions, Lionel Messi has been sent off in a game for Barcelona for the first time. Red.— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 17, 2021
Speaking with France Football on a number of topics in an extract ahead of the full interview's release on Tuesday, Leonardo did not move to distance the Ligue 1 giants from Messi and confirmed that he would be of interest if a switch to Parc des Princes becomes a possibility.
"Great players like him will always be on PSG's list," said the Brazilian. "Now is not the time to discuss nor even dream of it. We are seated at the table of those keeping tabs. In fact, not seated, but with a place reserved -- just in case. Four months is a long time in football, especially now."
As reported by CBS Sports insider Fabrizio Romano, PSG's immediate focus is to secure the futures of superstar pair Neymar and Kylian Mbappe past the summer of 2022 and Leonardo expressed his belief that the two can fulfil their ambitions in the French capital.
"I hope they believe PSG is a good place for top-class ambitious players now," he said. "We just have to agree between their desires and requirements and our expectations and means. We do not need to beg. Those who truly want to stay will. Contact is regular."
Leonardo was the one who communicated PSG's decision to sack former coach Thomas Tuchel at the start of the winter break and the South American transfer chief reflected on that move to part with the German six months before his contract expired and their lack of understanding.
"We knew, as did he, that an extension past this season would be difficult," he said. "We decided to bring that split forward. We did not change coach to show off. Perhaps we were no longer on the same wavelength."
Mauricio Pochettino is the new man in charge of PSG and the Argentine has won three of his first four matches, as well as the Trophee des Champions for his first piece of career silverware, which Leonardo hopes will be a regular feature of the new regime.
"I think it is important to have a style on the pitch," he said. "Paris must have its own identity. It does not come about in just a few weeks but years. I think that Mauricio can allow us to refine that and the connection with the club's DNA."
Leonardo also rejected the idea that PSG's decisions are directly solely by their Qatari owners and that he is simply instructed what to do and when, pointing at substantial investment in the squad and club infrastructure over a near 10-year period.
"Decisions are not imposed on us on a whim," he said. "We are now a structured, very professional entity with long-term vision and very competent staff. You cannot run a club on a whim. Do you think we spend big on players or new facilities just to sack a coach after a few minutes?"
PSG went top of Ligue 1 over the weekend and host Montpellier HSC in Le Championnat on Friday as they work towards their UEFA Champions League round of 16 clash with Messi's Barcelona next month.