Barca launched an offensive to bring the Brazilian back last year from Paris Saint-Germain yet ultimately failed to agree a price with the Ligue 1 champions. But Messi says the 28-year-old Neymar is looking forward to coming back to the Catalans.
"He is very excited about returning, he has always shown that he regrets what happened. He did a lot to return and that could be the first step he took to try and come back," the Argentine said in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo on Thursday.
"Neymar has always been a top-level player and different to the rest. He is unpredictable, he takes players on and he scores lots of goals. On a sporting level Neymar is one of the best in the world and I'd love for him to come back."
Neymar formed a mesmeric partnership with Messi and Luis Suarez for three seasons, including winning a remarkable Treble in 2015.
But in the middle of the club's pre-season tour of 2017, the Brazilian joined PSG for a world record fee of €222 million ($239.60m), angering supporters and teammates.
"It's normal that the fans felt that way because of how he left, and I was also upset about it at the time and we tried to convince him to not go," Messi added.
"But at the end of the day we all want to win and have the best players and so do the fans. As I've said before, he's one of the best players around and gave us a lot on the pitch."
Messi's comments come days after Neymar criticised how PSG delayed his return from a rib injury, claiming he could have played sooner to improve his physical condition ahead of the Paris club's 2-1 Champions League round-of-16 loss to Borussia Dortmund on Tuesday, where the Brazilian scored the visitors' lone goal.
Neymar had returned after a four-match absence to play in the game but said the time away from the pitch hindered his performance and he blamed the club for keeping him out of competition.
Neymar has also endured some tense moments with PSG sporting director Leonardo recently, most notably over his well-publicised birthday party that was held while out with the rib injury.
Barca trail Real Madrid by one point in the title race, but Messi is more worried about their chances of winning the Champions League, which they have not lifted since 2015. They visit Serie A side Napoli in the last 16, first leg on Tuesday.
"This year us and Real Madrid have both been inconsistent in the title race but I think we'll be fighting each other until the end of the season," added Messi, who is Barca's all-time top scorer and their most decorated player.
"But if we want to win the Champions League we have to keep growing a lot more as a team because I think right now in the shape we are in we will not be able to challenge for it."
Information from Reuters was used in this report.