BARCELONA • Lionel Messi still wishes to leave Barcelona after meeting new coach Ronald Koeman, according to reports in the Spanish media yesterday, as all four sports newspapers dedicated their front covers to the club captain's uncertain future.
Marca, Spain's biggest selling daily, said the Argentina forward told the Dutchman, who was appointed on a two-year deal on Wednesday, that he was more likely to leave the club than to stay, while AS declared on its cover that "Messi sees himself leaving".
Barcelona-based daily Mundo Deportivo said the 33-year-old "does not see his future clearly", but stressed that it was unlikely he would leave the club immediately due to his €700 million (S$1.1 billion) release clause.
Messi, who joined aged 13, has scored a record 634 goals in 730 matches and is also the club's most decorated player with 33 trophies. He is also 37 games away from matching Xavi Hernandez as the club's all-time appearance maker.
But Messi is into the final year of his contract at the club and doubts about his future have grown since last week's historic 8-2 thrashing by Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, a competition Barca have failed to win since 2015.
Catalan daily Sport also talked of a "first summit meeting" between the six-time Ballon d'Or winner and Koeman.
It added that Messi interrupted his holidays to air his feelings about the turmoil at the Nou Camp, with Barca enduring their first trophyless season since 2008.
At his presentation ceremony on Wednesday, Koeman insisted that he wanted Messi to commit his future to Barca, although he did not show as much reverence to the player as some of his predecessors.
However, with his contract running out next June, the top scorer in La Liga last season with 25 league goals will be free to negotiate with other clubs from January.
Messi's salary, reported to be the highest in football at €8.2 million a month, means few clubs would be able to afford him, with the exception of the Middle East-backed Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.