Football

Lionel Messi will be pillar of Ronald Koeman’s Barca project: Bartomeu

Lionel Messi will remain an integral part of Barcelona's overhaul under Ronald Koeman, insisted club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

"Messi wants to end his career at Barca, he has said that many times. I've spoken to Koeman about him and he has told me Messi will be the pillar of his project," said Bartomeu, amid talk that the Argentine, 33, was seeking to leave the Nou Camp.

"Messi has a contract with Barca until 2021. I speak to him and his father regularly and they know that we have a solid project, that a new coach is coming and that he will count on him."

Koeman, who played for Barca from 1989 to 1995, was yesterday confirmed as the club's new coach. The Dutchman signed a contract till June 30, 2022 after activating his release clause as Holland coach.

The 57-year-old will be overseeing a major rebuilding project, with the expected departure of players such as Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Ivan Rakitic and Luis Suarez.

Bartomeu mentioned seven players who were not for sale: captain Messi, goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, defenders Clement Lenglet and Nelson Semedo, plus recent signings Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele.

They are still trying to lure Argentina forward Lautaro Martinez from Inter Milan, but Bartomeu said it was now "impossible" to bring Neymar back to the club as Paris Saint-Germain no longer wish to sell the Brazilian.

Bartomeu, who announced that the club's presidential elections will take place in March 2021, three months earlier than planned, also defended his running of the club after facing calls to resign after their recent debacles.

"We have a sporting crisis, but not an institutional one," he added. - REUTERS

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