Messi was allowed to come off contract at Barca before joining PSG in a dramatic departure last month.
"I can't hide that we had contacts before," Leonardo told Canal+. "But always after the month of January, when he was six months away from the end of his contract. We never contacted Messi before January 2021.
"I think his idea was to stay in Barcelona . Honestly, he was clear that his desire was to stay and perhaps finish his career.
"Then the story of Messi at Barcelona ended - and we arrived. The desire to come that he showed motivated us a lot to do something. Imagine a player like Messi with the Paris Saint-Germain shirt, it is something huge, very beautiful.
"I am getting to know him. He is a very correct person, very serious and very specific."
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