Football: Messi indispensable to Barca - president

 Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi at a training session on Jan 3, 2017.
Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi at a training session on Jan 3, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (AFP) - Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insists ensuring Lionel Messi's future at the Catalan giants is his top priority after a week littered with embarrassing series of PR own goals for the Spanish champions.

"Renewing Messi's contract is indispensable to our club," Bartomeu told Catalan TV station TV3 before Barca's 5-0 thrashing of Las Palmas on Saturday (Jan 14).

Victory eased a growing sense of unease around the Camp Nou with divisions between the squad and the club's board over ongoing talks to extend Messi's contract beyond 2018.

 

Suarez criticised Barca CEO's Oscar Grau's claims that the club must show financial "common sense" in negotiating the Argentine's new deal, that looks set to make him the world's highest paid player.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Pere Gratacos was sacked from his role as Barca's director of institutional relations with the Spanish football federation for claiming Messi "wouldn't be as good" without the help of his star teammates.

"I always say to Barca fans to be calm. I am personally handling Leo's renewal," said Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

"I have spoken a bit with his team. We will speak when there is news to give. For now things simply have to run their course.

"We want him to remain at the club. He is the best player in the history of football, he plays with us and he has to retire here."

Despite posting a record turnover of €679 million (S$1 billion) last season, a series of expensive new contracts for the likes of Neymar and Suarez mean Barcelona are close to overstepping the 70 per cent limit of turnover spent on salaries imposed by Uefa's financial fair-play laws.

"We have to be very strict with the budgets, we can't go crazy," said Grau on Wednesday.

Barca are also hoping to hand contract extensions to club captain Andres Iniesta, whose current deal also has just 18 months left to run, and Ivan Rakitic with the Croatian a prime target for Manchester City.

"We will always put in the effort and work for Leo Messi and for other players who we have to renew like Iniesta and Rakitic.

"Leo is the best player in the world, he is a special case. He has helped us to be the pinnacle in these last few years."

On the field Messi shone again as Barca moved to within two points of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga by scoring for the seventh consecutive game.

Suarez also scored twice, whilst Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal rounded off the scoring in a performance Barca boss Luis Enrique lauded as their best of the season.

"What I am most happy with is the attitude of the team without the ball. In that sense it was without doubt our best performance of the season and one of the best since I have been here," said Enrique.

"We created loads of chances, we miraculously didn't kill the game off (in the first-half) because we missed huge opportunities.

"In the second-half we were more clinical.

"It was a complete performance in all aspects of our game and above all our attitude, which was marvellous."