Football

'Happy ending' for Barca and Messi

Club president Bartomeu confident 'indispensable' star will sign new deal

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu sought to clarify the club's position on Lionel Messi's future yesterday morning (Singapore time), following a week of institutional upheaval by declaring that renewing the Argentine maestro's contract was "indispensable".

"We want Leo to stay here, we want him to renew with us. He's very important for the club," Bartomeu told Catalan broadcaster TV3.

"We're working hard on it and, when two people want the same thing, there's always a happy ending."

Messi scored for the seventh game in a row as the champions thrashed Las Palmas 5-0 in La Liga yesterday morning, barely 24 hours after the club demoted director Pere Gratacos for saying Messi would not be the player he is without his Barcelona teammates.

Earlier in the week, the club's CEO Oscar Grau had also generated intrigue about Messi's future by declaring Barca needed to use "common sense" when discussing a new contract for their all-time top scorer, whose current deal runs out in 2018.

"I want to ease everyone's nerves," added Bartomeu.

"We've been having conversations (with Messi) and it's only a matter of time.

"When there's any news, we'll announce it, but we always conduct these matters with discretion.

I can't explain the details, but we're speaking with his people.

"He's the best player in the world, we want him to stay here and so does he. He's very happy at Barcelona. It's an indispensable matter for us."

Bartomeu also explained that Gratacos had been removed from his role as director of institutional relations but remained at the club, and said Grau's comments had been misinterpreted.

"His words were taken out of context, but we're used to that. Common sense says we have to renew Messi's (deal)," said Bartomeu.

"He is the best player in the history of football, a leader and the best in the world. His importance cannot be questioned," he added.

Messi's strike partner and close friend Luis Suarez said there was no problem with the five-time World Player of the Year.

"The media always make things into a soap opera and everything gets misinterpreted," noted the Uruguayan, who is the joint-top scorer in La Liga along with Messi.

"He wants to stay and the club knows what it has to do."

BEST PERFORMANCE

Meanwhile, Luis Enrique hailed Barcelona's "best performance without the ball" following their drubbing of Las Palmas.

A brace from Luis Suarez plus goals from Messi, Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal saw Barca climb up to second in La Liga and to within two points of Real Madrid, who played third-placed Sevilla this morning.

While Barca equalled their biggest league win of the season, it was the defensive aspect of his rotated side's display that Enrique was keen to highlight.

The Barca coach said: "What I'm most happy about is the team's performance without the ball, it was the best of the season and one of the best since I've been here.

"We knew that Las Palmas were a threat. We left the match open miraculously (in the first half) but, in the second half, we were better.

"The defensive work of this team has been great.

"I think we have been very good at what it means to put pressure on an opponent like this. It was excellent." - WIRE SERVICES

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