BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — With a month left on Lionel Messi’s contract, club president Joan Laporta is “moderately optimistic” that Barcelona’s greatest player will stay put.
“There will be a new contract for Messi, but it is not done yet,” Laporta said on Friday in his first news conference since he started his second stint in charge of the Spanish powerhouse.
Last summer, Messi wanted to leave the club following a season without a title but was denied an exit. He said in December that he would postpone a decision on his future once the season had ended. Messi’s contract expires on June 30.
Laporta said that he is “moderately optimistic” that he and Messi can reach a deal that “is within the possibilities of the club and acceptable for the player.”
Laporta did not reveal what salary the club can offer Messi, saying that Barcelona is still carrying out an internal audit with its finances hard hit by 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) of debt and 350 million euros ($426 million) in losses this season. Laporta said that Barcelona will be able to balance its books in two years, thanks to the continued interest that sponsors and investors have shown in the club.
Laporta said Messi wanted a more competitive Barcelona on the field.
“Leo surely deserves more and could make more elsewhere, but his desire is to make Barça great,” Laporta said. “I am sure that he appreciates the effort we are making, and I think that he is excited and motivated by the project we are building. For Leo, it is not about money, it is about the team and its chances of winning.
“Leo, above all, wants to feel comfortable, to feel appreciated. And then to win.”
Laporta successfully led Barcelona from 2003-2010 when Messi was blossoming into a star. He returned to power after winning club elections in March following the resignation of predecessor Josep Bartomeu.
The 33-year-old Messi has led Barcelona to four Champions League titles and 10 Spanish league titles.
Barcelona finished the Spanish league in third place and was knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16. Its only title was the Copa del Rey.
That’s left the future of coach Ronald Koeman in doubt.
Laporta said that he and the former Barcelona defender are in talks to see what course the team should take, but he would not confirm that Koeman will be allowed to finish the year left on his contract.
“My relationship with Koeman is very good. This is about making sure we share the same vision and goals,” Laporta said. “He has told me that he wants to continue. We are in a period of reflection with him to see what we do going forward.”
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