Recovering from an injury that kept him out of action at the start of 2019/2020, Lionel Messi has been better than ever for FC Barcelona. And while this has no doubt pleased their fans no end, worrying developments have emerged simultaneously.
Set to expire in 2021, speculation over the 32-year-old’s contract and claims made in relation to it by club president Josep Bartomeu and director of football Eric Abidal have found the pair subjected to scathing attacks from Catalonia’s two daily newspapers.
The former claiming that an “indefinite” deal was being prepared for the captain, Abidal professed that he knew “the president [was] talking to his representatives to close the case once and for all,” – statements that were then ripped apart by Mundo Deportivo’s Miguel Rico.
“They speak of the future fluently, as they have always done,’ Rico pointed out, ‘but negotiating, what is said of sitting face to face to discuss the conditions [of a new deal], they are not. Nor do they know when they will sit down [to do it], as they are the only ones that mark the times [and meetings].”
Then, last week, as part of an exposé on the Brazilian by Antoine Bourlon via the Ballon d’Or-awarding France Football, confessions that Messi supposedly made to Neymar earlier this year sent shockwaves through Catalonia, Argentina and the rest of the soccer world.
Talking to his friend in the aftermath of last season’s tragic semi-final defeat at Anfield in the competition, Messi apparently said: ‘Only together can we win the Champions League, I want you to come back. In two years I will leave and you will take over’.
Neither confirming these comments nor his intention to move on until now, last night in Paris, where he was crowned the world’s best player by the aforementioned magazine for a record sixth year, Messi puts Culés’ minds at rest when probed on the matter.
“People know me and know that there are no problems with that issue,” the Argentine crack said to gathered reporters. “What I feel for this club goes beyond any signature, any contract or any paper. It’s one more thing about how I feel and I want to feel fine while I’m at Barca,” he added.
On how much longer he sees himself on the field, LM10 answered: “I hope to play many more years, but I’m on my way to 33 and it depends on how I feel physically. Thank God I feel very well physically today and better than ever, on a personal and physical level.”
This will come as music to the ears of the masses. Or at least those of a Blaugrana persuasion, with former Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy quipping at the start of the week that the future of Real Madrid, or rather how successful it is, depends on Messi “going to Australia” or some other foreign clime to see out the rest of his career.
But alas, it seems that he is here to stay in Catalonia. And with that, fresh supplies of breathing space are granted in the quest to find a worthy successor – if there could ever be one.
On Saturday at the Camp Nou, prior to their La Liga clash with relegation-threatened Mallorca, Messi will show off his latest conquest to his supporters and those of that club that reared him from adolescence. On current form with current confessions in mind, it won’t be the last time this occurs.