‘Messi will never leave Barca’

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

BARCELONA pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu pre­dicted yes­ter­day that Lionel Messi would not only ex­tend his con­tract with the Cata­lan club but also end his play­ing days there too.

Speak­ing at the launch of a € 55 mil­lion (RM258m) a year shirt spon­sor­ship deal Bar­tomeu told jour­nal­ists he was “re­laxed about Messi’s con­tract”.

With the clock tick­ing and only 18 months left on Messi’s deal the club want to ex­tend it, as they did with Ney­mar and as they are try­ing to do with Luis Suarez.

“We are all con­vinced that he will end his play­ing days at the heart of this club. All the so­cios (stake-hold­ing fans) be­lieve it, it’s just a ques­tion of how we get over the line,” he said.

“This player has led us to our great sport­ing suc­cesses in re­cent years and he will con­tinue to do so, he’s far from fin­ished.” Span­ish sports daily

had sown doubt over the 29-year-old Messi’s fu­ture on Tues­day with claims the Ar­gen­tine was stalling over a new deal and flirt­ing in­stead with the idea of join­ing his for­mer coach Pep Guardi­ola at Manch­ester City.

It was enough for Manch­ester United to ad­mit they won’t be able to beat City to Messi’s sig­na­ture if the su­per­star were to head to Eng­land.

United also wouldn’t rule out a move for the 29-yearold and they’d be able to match his wage de­mands. But while United chiefs reckon they can com­pete with City on a fi­nan­cial ba­sis, the prospect of Messi re­unit­ing with Guardi­ola is some­thing they can’t of­fer.

Messi’s City con­nec­tions do not stop at the man­ager but also in­clude his best friend and in­ter­na­tional roo­mate, Ser­gio Aguero, chief ex­ec­u­tive Fer­ran Sor­ri­ano and di­rec­tor of foot­ball Txiki Be­giris­tain, all but Aguero hav­ing known Messi at Barcelona.

An Old Trafford source told The Sun: “City would be the favourites if he were to one day leave, but we would ob­vi­ously love to sign a player of that level.

“We can cer­tainly com­pete on the cash front and Messi is an Adi­das player like Paul Pogba, so we have our pluses.

“But all the same, we would not get in­volved in any bid­ding war un­less Messi’s camp gave an in­di­ca­tion that he was will­ing to come here.”

Messi is thought to be keen to end his ca­reer at the Nou Camp, but with con­tract talks stalling, the likes of United, City, Paris Sain­tGer­main and China are mon­i­tor­ing him.

Brazil­ian su­per­star Ney­mar signed a new fiveyear con­tract with Barcelona in Oc­to­ber that will keep the 24-year-old at the Span­ish cham­pi­ons un­til 2021, say­ing he felt “at home” at the Camp Nou.

Euro­pean Golden Shoe win­ner Luis Suarez said last week ne­go­ti­a­tions to ex­tend his con­tract with Barcelona un­til 2021 were run­ning smoothly. – AFP

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