Lionel Messi assured Barcelona he wants to stay at the club for the rest of his career, president Josep Maria Bartomeu said Sunday amid reports the Argentine could leave next summer.
"Messi has said he will end his working and footballing life at Barca," Bartomeu told Spanish network Movistar, according to Reuters. "I'm not going to explain the details because we are focused on the competition and we are negotiating with many players, but Messi has explained to us that he wants to stay, and so we're going to enjoy him for much longer."
Bartomeu's statement comes days after reports that Messi refused to enter negotiations over a new contract. That led to speculation that the 33-year-old would leave Barcelona when his current deal expires in June 2021.
Messi's relationship with the club has deteriorated in recent months. Messi called out sporting director Eric Abidal after he suggested the players were to blame for the firing of Ernesto Valverde. Then, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Messi snapped back at board members who questioned whether the players would accept pay cuts. First-team members eventually agreed to slash 70% of their salaries.
Bartomeu is currently in his final year as president. Having served two terms, he's ineligible to run in next year's election. He's also battled allegations that the club hired a social media company to smear former and current players.
Before leaving his position, the 57-year-old entrepreneur has reportedly made it a goal to tie down Messi to a new contract.
Barcelona beat Villarreal 4-1 on Sunday to remain four points behind Real Madrid in the La Liga title race.
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