Football: Griezmann stars against Villarreal as Barca insist Messi will finish career with them

Barcelona forward Antoine Griezmann celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Villarreal. PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (AFP) - Antoine Griezmann answered his critics in style on Sunday (July 5) by scoring with a sensational chip as Barcelona thrashed Villarreal 4-1 to keep their faint La Liga title hopes alive.

After the humiliation of being brought on in the 90th minute against his former club Atletico Madrid, Griezmann was back in the starting line-up at La Ceramica and repaid the faith with a stunning goal, teed up by Lionel Messi.

Messi also laid on a curling Luis Suarez shot into the top corner after Gerard Moreno cancelled out a Pau Torres own-goal that had put Barca in front. Ansu Fati then added a fourth late on.

An impressive victory for Quique Setien's side reduces the gap back to four points behind Real Madrid, who earlier ground out another 1-0 win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames, with a Sergio Ramos penalty proving the difference.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu later moved to quash speculation over Messi's future by saying the Argentinian will end his career at the Catalan club, dismissing a report saying he no longer wishes to renew his current contract when it expires next year.

"Messi has said he will end his working and footballing life at Barca," Bartomeu told Spanish network Movistar.

"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."

The 33-year-old Messi, who signed his last contract in 2017, has become more outspoken against the club's hierarchy in the last year and radio station Cadena Ser said last Thursday he is unhappy with how Barca is being run and wants to leave in 2021.

Bartomeu also said the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) technology was not being applied fairly since the season resumed following the coronavirus stoppage, referring to Real's late penalty converted by Sergio Ramos after a VAR review while Athletic had their own penalty appeal turned down.

"I saw the game in Bilbao and although I don't like to say it, I'll repeat that VAR is not being used as it should be," said Bartomeu.

"Since the season returned after the Covid-19 crisis it has not been equal, that has been reflected in the results and it looks as if it always favours the same team.

"VAR should be there to help out the referee but in the last few weeks everyone has been able to see the instances in which it has not been used fairly."

Real coach Zinedine Zidane has said he was tired of his side's winning run being put down to marginal decisions going their way.

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