Barcelona striker Luis Suarez has said he hopes teammate Lionel Messi will follow his lead by signing a long-term contract to see out the remainder of his prime years at the Camp Nou.
Suarez, 29, celebrated a new five-year deal by scoring twice in a 4-1 rout of Espanyol on Sunday as Barca closed to within three points of Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Liga.
However, the Uruguayan was still overshadowed by a series of astonishing moves from Messi as he wriggled through Espanyol defenders at will before finally sealing his display with Barca’s fourth goal a minute from time. Messi only has 18 months left on his current Barca deal.
“He is a big boy and knows what he has to decide,” Suarez told Spanish TV channel Movistar.
“He also knows where he is happy and we hope for everyone’s benefit he stays here, but he is the one that has to take the decision.”
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The reason Barca will be desperate to cling onto the five-time World Player of the Year was clear once more in one particular moment of brilliance as Messi weaved his way through five Espanyol defenders before his shot was saved and Suarez swept home the rebound for his second of the night and 12th of the season to move level with Messi as the Primera Liga’s top scorer.
“Leo’s move (for the second goal) is a PlayStation move from a unique player that only he can do,” Suarez said.
Despite Barca’s upturn in form in recent weeks, Real Madrid still maintain a firm grip on the title race. Madrid have a game in hand to go with their three-point lead as they weren’t in action this weekend.
Instead, Madrid were at the Club World Cup where they extended a club record unbeaten run to 37 games with a 4-2 win over Japanese champions Kashima Antlers after extra-time thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick.
Match highlights — Barcelona 4 Espanyol 1
Barca manager Luis Enrique said Madrid’s early season form has been tough to live with.
However, Enrique is hopeful of a similar spring slump from Madrid to that suffered by Barca last year in losing three straight league games in April as the demand of travelling to Japan for Club World Cup duty took its toll.
“What interests us now are the six months left of the season and the objective is to get back to winning more titles,” Enrique said.
“To do that we are on the right course. Perhaps in La Liga we are not in the position we would like, but we have to accept Real Madrid are posting spectacular numbers and we haven’t been as consistent at home as we are used to.
“There is still a long way to go. Last year showed what can happen in the final weeks of the season and we will give it everything until the end.”
* Agence France-Presse
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