Lionel Messi has suggested the only way he'll leave Barcelona is if the fans no longer want him. The Argentinian superstar confirmed he is "very happy to stay" in Catalonia, as long as his presence remains the best thing for the club.
Speaking after Barca's 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid—which ensured the Blaugrana finished this season without a trophy—Messi indicated he will remain at the Camp Nou for as long as he's wanted, noted on his Weibo page and reported via heathGCF of Inside Spanish Football:
It’s the people of Barcelona who decide my future, but my choice is to continue because I still feel the same affection from them as always. Even if that wasn’t the case, I’d still seek a solution, because I always want the best for this club.
Messi recently reached an agreement to extend his contract with Barcelona, noted by Bleacher Report UK, but Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC suggests nothing will be signed until at least July:
BREAKING: Barcelona reached an agreement with Leo Messi over new contract. Reported to be worth 20m euros NET a year. pic.twitter.com/LdZFRYlOO5— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) May 16, 2014
Messi contract NOT finalised yet say AS. Still commercial details to agree. He leaves for Argentina Sun night. Unlikely signed before WC.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) May 17, 2014
Hard to know what is really up with new Messi deal, but seems negotiations still ongoing, through all media available.— Dermot Corrigan (@dermotmcorrigan) May 19, 2014
Both Messi and Barcelona suffered frustrating seasons, although the individual still managed to post excellent numbers. Despite missing significant playing time throughout December, Messi racked up a stunning 36 goals in 38 appearances across La Liga and the Champions League, per WhoScored.com.
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Often belittled by the Spanish press when Barca fail to win, Messi's output remains prolific. Alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, he is among the elite who could be criticised for netting one goal per start. Luis F. Rojo of Marca recently suggested Messi was "sleep-walking" through fixtures at the most important point of the season, despite scoring three goals in his last five appearances.
Even so, Barcelona's campaign stuttered under Gerardo Martino. A Copa del Rey final loss to Real Madrid swiftly followed Barca's Champions League exit at the hands of Atletico, who also pipped FCB to the post in the domestic division. In all honesty, Barca should consider themselves lucky to have still been in the title race heading into the final match, after poor draws with Getafe and Elche.
Messi's inability to score against Elche and Atletico was always going to open him up for criticism. The majority of fans will look beyond two games without a goal—something that really shouldn't be referred to as a "blip"—and will focus on a future with their key player leading the way.
With Martino stepping aside, reported by The Guardian, Barcelona's new manager will need to quickly rejuvenate an ageing squad. This is likely to be a transitional summer for the team that is used to winning in style. Players such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Alen Halilovic are already confirmed to be coming in now that FIFA's transfer ban has been put on hold, per BBC Sport, indicating a new era for Barca fans.
Messi, who has defined the club's historic run of trophies across the past decade, is likely to be there every step of the way.