Lionel Messi 'will end his footballing life at Barcelona' amid reports of shock exit

Barca captain's contract expires next year and there has been growing friction between player and club

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Lionel Messi will end his career with Barcelona, insists president Josep Maria Bartomeu, after a series of episodes that have increased friction between captain and club.

Messi, whose Barca contract expires next year, is reportedly considering his future after spending his entire trophy-laden and record-breaking career with the Catalans.

The Argentine has been an increasingly outspoken critic of Barcelona's directors this season, while cracks within dressing room became apparent when he apparently ignored instructions from assistant manager Eder Sarabia during the 2-2  draw at Celta Vigo.

Despite the unprecedented situation involving Messi and Barca, Bartomeu has complete confidence that the club's best player will commit his future to the Camp Nou.

"Messi has said he will end his working and footballing life at Barca," Bartomeu told Spanish network Movistar after his side beat Villarreal 4-1 away on Sunday in La Liga.

"I'm not going to explain the details because we are focused on the competition and we are negotiating with many players but Messi has explained to us that he wants to stay and so we're going to enjoy him for much longer."

The 33-year-old Messi, who signed his last contract in 2017, has become more outspoken against the club's hierarchy in the last year and radio station Cadena Ser said last Thursday he is unhappy with how Barca is being run and wants to leave in 2021.

Messi criticised the club over their handling of the salary cuts imposed during the coronavirus-enforced lockdown, and he publicly called out sporting director Eric Abidal after the Frenchman claimed the players had become unresponsive to the instructions of former manager Ernesto Valverde.

While the friction has seemed to intensify in recent months, Messi also questioned Barca's transfer policy back in September after a failure to take Neymar back from Paris Saint-Germain. “I don’t know if they did everything they could with Neymar,” Messi said.

As Messi is prone to do, though, off-field issues did not affect his influence on  the pitch and he was instrumental to Barca's win at Villarreal.