Lionel Messi Inter Miami press conference
FC Barcelona has always been keen on finding a way to bring back club legend Lionel Messi. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP News

FC Barcelona fans are getting their hopes up now that rumours are swirling that Lionel Messi could re-join the La Liga giants for the second half of the ongoing 2023/24 season.

It may be remembered that Messi left the Blaugrana in 2021 despite promises from club president Joan Laporta that keeping Messi was his number one priority. Messi has always been vocal about his desire to stay, and was caught off-guard when the club failed to offer him a contract extension. Laporta underestimated the gravity of the club's financial issues, and he was ultimately faced with the reality that they could no longer afford to keep the Argentine.

Messi was then left with no choice but to join Paris Saint-Germain FC for two seasons, and despite fresh efforts from Barcelona to sign him this summer, they were still struggling to make a solid offer. Messi opted to join Major League Soccer (MLS) side Inter Miami instead, where he has made a phenomenal impact.

Messi's sensational arrival at the MLS

Inter Miami were at the bottom of the Eastern Conference in the MLS when Messi arrived in July with his former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba. Together, they helped turn the club's fortunes around, logging a 12-match unbeaten streak that included a run to their maiden Leagues Cup trophy.

They fought hard to get off the bottom of the table and into the post-season, but Messi was forced to miss a handful of matches due to injury. This led to a massive dip in form that completely derailed Inter Miami's push in the closing stages of the campaign.

In Messi's absence, the club lost the US Open Cup final to Houston Dynamo. Then, further losses in the MLS have effectively put them out of contention for the play-offs even with two more regular season games left to play.

Messi's return was not enough to put Inter Miami through

The Argentine superstar suffered a hamstring injury while out on international break and later missed five games for the club. He then returned in the second half of the match against FC Cincinnati at the DRV PNK Stadium on Saturday, but that did not stop them from losing 1-0.

The loss meant that Gerardo "Tata" Martino's men are now mathematically unable to secure an Eastern Conference playoff spot. They are seven points off the mark, but only have two matches remaining, leaving only six points available.

Where does FC Barcelona come in?

Now that Inter Miami are out of contention for the playoffs, they have two more matches to play later this month before going on a break for at least four months. This opens the door for Messi to potentially re-join his former club on loan when the January transfer window comes along.

The MLS runs on a different schedule to La Liga, therefore making this unique opportunity possible. Inter Miami owner Jorge Mas has previously hinted that he is open to the idea of letting Messi bid the Barcelona fans a proper goodbye.

The idea, although purely speculative for now, is not entirely unusual. In fact, Inter Miami co-owner David Beckham himself pulled off a similar deal back when he was playing for LA Galaxy. Beckham joined Serie A giants AC Milan during the MLS off-season, and even tried to stay there to boost his international profile.

A Messi comeback is completely plausible, but it is unclear if the Blaugrana will be able to make space in their salary cap to make the deal happen.

Inter Miami will also have a new season starting in February 2024, and they won't be keen on missing their talisman until June when the European season ends. Messi's arrival and his recent absences showed exactly what kind of a massive impact he makes on the team and missing him for several months may not be something that the club would be open to.