BARCELONA: Barcelona have moved to counter speculation that Leo Messi is reconsidering his future with the club after it dived into crisis over the weekend.
President Josep Maria Bartomeue insisted Messi is happy at Barcelona and will stay with the club until at least the end of his contract in 2018, denying report that the Liga’s all-time record goalscorer, 27, is unhappy under coach Luis Enrique.
Bartomeu said: “Messi has a contract until 2018, he is happy with the club and wants to win more titles. There is nothing to panic about in that regard. Messi is the central figure. The team is built around him. The whole footballing world knows that Barca don’t want to sell Messi. For me he is the best player in the world.”
Messi started on the bench as Barcelona lost to Real Sociedad at the weekend and missed the chance to overtake Real Madrid at the top.
Talk of a transfer has resurfaced in recent days, with rumours Messi could be interested in a move to English Premier League side Chelsea.
Catalan radio has claimed that the London club has contacted Messi’s father and agent Jorge.
But Bartomeu told a news conference: “These news stories are created to try to damage FC Barcelona. They are written with the intention of creating conflicts where conflict does not exist. Ultimately these are questions that you have to direct to Enrique and Messi, but from the contact I have made they are getting on fine and want to win titles.
“Enrique has a project that he is working on. Of course, we always want to win, but there is no doubting him.
“All the turmoil around the club will affect the team. That is precisely why we have called an election.”
Bartomeu has called elections for the end of the season after conceding the club has been affected by “an astonishing amount of tension over the last few weeks”.
He backed Enrique to stay at the club, with the Barcelona coach saying earlier on Wednesday he does not feel under any pressure ahead of Thursday’s Copa del Rey clash with Elche.
“I haven’t received an ultimatum from the president,” said Enrique. “I’ve never had any such threat in my entire career.”
Asked if Messi was still happy with life at Barcelona, Enrique said: “I don’t want to comment. We know things change and a month is a long time.”
The former Barca player added: “I have the same relationship with all my players that I had at the start of the season. That has not changed.”
One likely candidate in the elections is former president Joan Laporta who led the club to 12 titles in his spell in charge between 2003 and 2010 when he was ousted by controversial Sandro Rosell. Laporta, reportedly, would hope to bring back Pep Guardiola from Bayern Munich as sporting director.