Leo in no hurry to seal new Barcelona bumper deal

BARCELONA • Lionel Messi's representatives have said that the Argentinian footballer will not be responding to a report in Marca that he does not intend to consider a new contract with Barcelona until his current deal expires in 2018.

The Madrid-based sports daily said on Monday the 29-year-old told the Catalan club of his decision in July - after he and his father Jorge were convicted of tax fraud.

The paper, citing unnamed sources, added the conviction was a major reason for his wanting out.

However, the Barcelona-based Sport, Argentinian daily Ole and some British papers, also citing unnamed sources, have disputed the story - leading off with Messi's camp saying contract talks are ongoing and that they are in no hurry.

Barcelona, according to Sport, believed that Marca invented the story in retaliation for Messi rejecting its invitation to attend the paper's recent awards ceremony - a claim Marca has denied.

Sport also said that Messi has no issues with the club and officials are keen to extend the stay of all key players by the end of the year before settling their No. 10's future.

Sources close to the player say that he is in the early stages of negotiating a deal that could see him overtake Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo as the world's highest-paid football player.

Messi will not likely be penning a new deal until early next year, but if he does, his annual wages will reportedly amount to £45 million (S$79 million), eclipsing the Portuguese forward's latest contract.

If Messi were to reject Barcelona's offer, Manchester City could be his favoured destination even though the English club have repeatedly said that the Argentinian will see out his career in Spain.

Still, Messi is on good terms with City chief executive Ferran Soriano and football director Txiki Begiristain, and holds high regard for manager Pep Guardiola from their days together at the Nou Camp.

On top of that, City have a strong Argentinian connection which may appeal to Messi - Sergio Aguero is his good friend, while he is also close to Pablo Zabaleta and Nicolas Otamendi.

Other clubs who could be in contention for the five-time World Player of the Year's signature are Chelsea, Manchester United, and Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi is also said to be keen to return to childhood club Newell's Old Boys, who play in Argentina's Primera Division .

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Leo in no hurry to seal new Barcelona bumper deal'. Subscribe