Barcelona president Josep Mari Bartomeu has given the clearest indication yet that he expects Lionel Messi to remain at the Camp Nou beyond the expiration of his current deal.
Speculation has been rife in recent months that the star forward, whose contract is set to run out at the end of the 2017/18 campaign, is considering leaving for pastures new after 15 years in Catalonia.
A host of teams, including Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and PSG have been credited with an interest in the little magician.
But despite claims from Spanish publication MARCA last month that Messi had rejected improved terms over the summer, club president Bartomeu has hinted that a positive resolution to keep the 29-year-old at the LaLiga champions is likely to be reached in the near future.
“We have been saying for a long time that we want Messi to end his career here,” he told reporters.
“I hope that Barcelona can announce an agreement with Leo soon. That is what we want and I think that’s what he wants too.
“I’m sure that even when he retires, he will continue to be involved at the club. He is without a doubt the best player in history and we would love him to continue with us here.”
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In a wide-ranging interview, Bartomeu also admitted that Messi’s influence on the modern game has been such that he should have lifted the Ballon d’Or every year ahead of rival and 2016 winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I believe he should win the Ballon d’Or ever year and it will be very difficult to find a player like him ever again in the future,” he added.
“That isn’t just my opinion but the opinion of many pundits around the world. Leo has transcended the world of sport for his values.
“I refer to what Quique [Sanchez Flores] said in the press room. There are other very good players but Messi is the No. 1, without a doubt.”