La Liga president Javier Tebas has described Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi as “essential” to the league, in a way that Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar never were.
The Argentina international came close to a sensational departure from Catalonia this summer, when he made a transfer request after becoming unhappy with the running of the club.
Messi eventually stayed at the side he joined aged 13, saying he did not want to take them to court over disagreements about his release clause.
The 33-year-old is now in the final year of his contract at the Camp Nou and could follow in the footsteps of Neymar and Ronaldo by leaving Spanish football.
But Tebas warned that neither of the two superstars’ departures from the Spanish top flight were as damaging to the league as the potential loss of Messi would be.
Asked by Marca whether he would like to see Neymar return to La Liga, Tebas said: “Yes, of course, with his qualities he's in the top three players in the world.
“It would be very important for La Liga if he came again, although it wouldn't be defining for the Spanish league.
“The defining thing is that we play 10 months a year, with 20 clubs each playing each other and generating passion and joy each weekend for fans in Spain and across the world.
“A player like Neymar gives you a following in countries that look out for him, but he's not an essential element, not even Cristiano Ronaldo was.
“Lionel Messi, on the other hand, is the essential element because he's the heritage of La Liga.”
When quizzed on whether he thinks clubs linked with a move for Messi, for example Manchester City and PSG, could afford the move, Tebas said: "If they are interested in signing him it's because they can [afford] it.
"I'm not going to go there because there are many factors that we don't know about at the moment."
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