Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi has described fellow Argentine Lautaro Martinez as an "impressive" and "complete" forward as media speculation continues to link the Inter Milan player with a move to the Spanish giants.
Martinez's agent, Sergio Zarate, last month claimed there was a "very big possibility" that his client would move to Barca this summer, with the Catalans holding the edge over other clubs due to his desire to play alongside Messi.
Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti quickly refuted Zarate's comments and insisted that the Serie A club are determined to retain Martinez, whom Zanetti said remains eager to stay at the club.
While refusing to get embroiled in the transfer saga, Messi did offer his thoughts on his international colleague, who has been one of the stars of the Serie A season, scoring 11 goals in 22 games before the campaign was halted due to the coronavirus outbreak.
"If I am honest I do not know very well if there were or are negotiations right now for him, I have no idea," Messi told Sport.
"Lautaro is an impressive striker, especially because I think he is a very complete player: he is strong, he dribbles well, he has [an eye for] goal, he knows how to protect the ball.
"But, well, we will have to see what happens finally with him and with other names that have been mentioned."
Messi and his Barcelona teammates have returned to individual training at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper after a two-month suspension as La Liga awaits confirmation for plans to resume the season on June 12.
The long read: how player power and politics made for a perfect storm at Barcelona
The coronavirus lockdown has been eventful for Barcelona, who have had six executives resign in protest and had senior players criticise the club.
First Messi hit out at board members for their handling of the salary reduction process, accusing executives of applying unnecessary pressure on the players, before Croatian midfielder Ivan Rakitic blamed the club for treating him like a "sack of potatoes".
However the future looks for Barca, Messi believes that the coronavirus pandemic and the financial implications of the lockdown are likely to affect the club's ambitions in the transfer market.
"On the subject of transfers, there are some people in the club who are in charge and should be the ones who choose what they think is best for the squad," Messi said.
"It is clear that in this current situation everything is going to be harder in the market as well and you have to be confident to be able to improve what we already have."