Lionel Messi held talks with Inter over a potential move to the Italian giants after leaving Barcelona, Javier Zanetti has revealed.
Messi left Barca in 2021 after lifting 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies with the club, eventually opting to sign for Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain.
But Zanetti, a former team-mate of Messi with Argentina and now vice-president of Inter, says there was a chance the diminutive forward could have joined the 19-time Serie A champions before he chose PSG.
Zanetti pointed to Inter's financial inferiority with their rivals for Messi's signature as the main reason for him going elsewhere, telling DAZN: "I was surprised when he left Barcelona.
"Realistically, we cannot compete with PSG or Premier League clubs, but due to our rapport, we spoke when there was a chance."
Messi has since won a Ligue 1 title with PSG while also finally earning World Cup glory with Argentina, while Inter have struggled to replicate the form that saw them end a 10-year wait for another Serie A title in the 2020-21 campaign.
After missing out on retaining the title by two points to rivals Milan last season, the Nerazzurri are running out of time to overhaul a 13-point gap to leaders Napoli this campaign with Luciano Spalletti's team showing no signs of slowing down the rampant pace that has seen them win 18 of their 21 top-flight games.
The Partenopei's sole defeat came at the hands of Inter in January, and Zanetti has mixed feelings about his team's efforts this term, saying: "We could have done more in the league. We miss some points, but it's part of a path that this team is consistently carrying out.
"Mistakes are normal with such a packed fixture list, but I've always seen a team that wants to impose its style, trying to cause trouble for opponents.
"We've been able to react to difficulties and I find that some criticism has been exaggerated."
Centre-back Milan Skriniar will join Messi at PSG next season after choosing to turn down a new contract with Inter and instead make the move to France at the end of his current deal.
Zanetti hopes Skriniar will remain in the right headspace to help Inter to the best of his capabilities over the rest of the season, with Simone Inzaghi's side still fighting for silverware in the Champions League and Coppa Italia alongside their league duties, having already lifted the Supercoppa Italiana by thrashing Milan 3-0 in Saudi Arabia last month.
"We offered him a contract within our financial reach, but he made a different choice," Zanetti added. "Now we need to put him in the best condition to give his best until the end of the season."