Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 28 November 2020

Barcelona have 'obligation' to secure Lionel Messi's future, says president Josep Maria Bartomeu

Messi's deal is set to expire next summer and, after a series of public altercations with Barca, reports emerged claiming that he had called off negotiations on new terms

Barcelona have an "obligation" to offer Lionel Messi a new contract, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said, as speculation surrounded the Argentine superstar's future.

Messi's current deal is set to expire next summer and, after a series of public altercations with Barca, reports emerged claiming the 33-year-old forward had called off negotiations over new terms.

One report said Messi was frustrated with the club's failure to build a winning squad and he was tired of leaks from the club which painted him in a bad light. He was also reportedly upset at reports that the players had got head coach Ernesto Valverde fired in January.

Bartomeu dismissed the rumours and said that Barcelona will do all they can to ensure Messi commits his future to the club.

"Normally, we do not explain the discussions with players, but it is evident that we have the obligation to re-sign him", Bartomeu told Catalan radio station Rac1. "He is the best player in history. He has many years of football left.

"I see a relaxed Leo... He has said many times that he wants to finish [his career] at Barca."

Bartomeu, who must stand down in 2021, said that he envisaged Messi "retiring at Barca under another president because he will sign for another spell".

"I talk to the players very often. Not only with Leo, but also with the group, especially with the captains. Besides, lately we have a lot of topics to talk about."

Before beating Villarreal 4-1 on Sunday, Barcelona had drawn three of their previous four matches and slipped four points behind Real Madrid in the title race, putting manager Quique Setien under pressure.

"Setien will continue, of course," said Bartomeu. "I am quite happy with the development we are showing in the games despite the draws.

"Setien knows our DNA, the model and he has brought fresh air and new ideas and is working hard," said Bartomeu before adding that "coaches, evidently, need results".

"If La Liga, which will be difficult, is not won then comes the Champions League in August. We have to try to win one and then the other."

He said that Barca are trying to ensure home advantage for the second leg of the Champions League tie against Napoli. The clubs drew the first leg 1-1 in Naples on February 25 before the season was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are fighting for the second leg of the round of 16 to be played at the Camp Nou," Bartomeu said. "Uefa, if the situation is normal, knows that we would play here."

Updated: July 7, 2020 06:51 PM

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