Barcelona (opens in new tab) presidential candidate Agusti Benedito has admitted he isn’t convinced Lionel Messi will remain at the club beyond the end of the season.
The talismanic Argentine’s contract at the Camp Nou expires at the end of the season and his future remains up in the air.
Benedito is among nine contenders to take over at the La Liga giants during this month’s elections, after also running in 2010 and 2015.
But he believes the 33-year-old, who requested a transfer last summer before eventually staying put, could move on as Barca approach a challenging period.
"Keeping Messi would be the best news for the club but I am not very optimistic," Benedito told ESPN (opens in new tab).
"Given the club's situation, I think it's really important that he stays at Barca, with the understanding that he understands the next two years we have in front us [could be difficult].
"He's been here for 20 years; he's a Barcelona fan and I think he's sensitive to the situation. He has given us so much in the same way that Barcelona have given him a lot and it's time for us all to roll up our sleeves.
"I would have liked him to say in his interview the other week that his desire is to stay at the club, but he didn't and now we have to wait and see.
“The truth is I am pessimistic. Remember that in August he said he wanted to leave after 20 years and now he's still not cleared up what he wants to do. The most likely outcome I see is that he leaves us in the summer."
But other presidential candidates like Joan Laporta and Victor Font have previously stated their optimism about him staying.
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