Barcelona are keen to tie up Lionel Messi on a long-term contract to ensure he ends his career at the club – despite having two years left on his current deal.
Having seen rivals Real Madrid struggle after losing their star man Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, the Catalonians appear desperate to ensure the same does not happen to them.
Since selling Ronaldo to Juventus, Real Madrid have been through two managers, and are set to finish the season with no silverware. The low point of an unhappy campaign was being outplayed by Ajax as they were knocked out of the Champions League for the first time since 2015.
As well as a contract – which top brass at the club hope could last five years for the 31-year-old – Barca are also looking at which players could replace the Argentine idol in future.
In an interview with ESPN, Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said: "We would like to renew his contract, that's the idea. He is young – you can see that – and he still has two years on his deal. He's always improving, always innovating. I believe he still has many years in front of him and in the coming months we'll sit down with him so that he has many more years at Barcelona.”
He said that "Messi is a one-club man” and would like to maintain the relationship between player and club after he has retired.
Looking to a time when the forward stops playing, Bartomeu said: “Messi knows his body well and the day he believes he can't add [to the team], he will leave. [We have] to prepare for the future. Leo Messi is our leader, he's the best player in the world of football, he's playing with us, he's playing fantastically, but we know it won't be forever.
"Maybe in three, four or five years, Leo Messi will say: 'OK, I am going to stop playing football.' So we are preparing our club for the future, for the time post-Leo. Because we would like to still be the top club at that time. So, it's a way of working, of investing, also of taking risks.”
While the president stressed the importance of Barca’s renowned academy La Masia, he also referenced “bringing players from other clubs, just to keep this level of excellence".
He said: “Sometimes I explain to members of the club and the board, what we are doing is bringing right now very young players to the club. Young players that we think are very talented: [Clement] Lenglet, Ousmane Dembele, Arthur Melo, Frenkie de Jong, Marc-Andre ter Stegen is still very young.”
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