Barcelona forward Lionel Messi opted against answering questions about his long-term future at the club on Friday as he picked up the Golden Boot award.
Messi's contract at the Camp Nou is set to expire at the end of the campaign, prompting some concern among the club's fanbase. As noted by Rik Sharma of the Daily Mirror, the 30-year-old declined any talk about a new deal when interviewed by award sponsors Marca.
"I know that everyone is thinking about the renovation of your contract with Barcelona, but today we are here to pay homage to you and nothing can take the focus away from our precious gala," said Marca director Juan Ignacio Gallardo in an introductory speech at the award ceremony. "There will be time to talk about contract renewals later."
As relayed by Sharma on Twitter, it feels as though it'd be easy for Messi to make his intentions clear over his future:
Rik Sharma @riksharma_
Think how easy it would be for Messi to quell all worries by saying "I'm staying". (Just don't let Pique say it...)2017-11-24 15:21:23
The Blaugrana icon beat Sporting CP forward Bas Dost to the coveted prize, winning it for the fourth time in total.
It's a reminder of what Messi brings to this Barcelona side, as if anyone associated with the club needed telling. The Argentina international's continued influence is one of the primary reasons why plenty are worried about a potential departure.
After all, should January roll around and Messi has not signed his extension, clubs outside of La Liga can discuss a pre-contract with him. And if he was to agree to any offer, the legendary goalscorer would leave Barcelona for nothing at the end of the season.
For Barcelona supporters, it's incredible Messi has been allowed to let his contract run down to the wire. Messi's biographer, Ramiro Martin, has a feeling something isn't quite right about the renewal:
B/R Football @brfootball
Leo Messi STILL hasn't signed a new Barcelona contract. He couldn't leave, could he? | @Richard_Fitz investigates https://t.co/fmIreUZKiy https://t.co/jS5TyNGNY72017-11-21 12:36:00
All of the noise coming out of the Camp Nou has been positive regarding the deal, with manager Ernesto Valverde recently telling supporters "not to worry" about losing their talisman, per Joe Wright of Goal.
In July, Barcelona released a statement on their official website stating, "In the coming weeks, the Argentinian star will sign a new deal that will keep him at the Club for the next four years." But as of yet, the deal has not been rubber-stamped.
While he has adapted his game in recent years, as noted by Sky Sports Statto, Messi remains one of the most prolific footballers on the planet:
Sky Sports Statto @SkySportsStatto
Europe’s top 5 leagues – most goals since start of last season (all comps): 70 – E. Cavani (68 apps) 70 – L. Messi (71) 61 – R. Lewandowski (66) 56 – P-E. Aubameyang (64) 52 – C. Ronaldo (61) #UCL https://t.co/9ktKj9m7Lu2017-11-22 22:02:27
Additionally, he has a strong affinity with the Catalan giants. Messi has spent his entire senior career with Barcelona, making his debut in 2004. Since then he's won eight La Liga titles and the UEFA Champions League on four occasions.
It's tough to envisage Messi donning any other club colours as a result, although it seems more feasible the longer the situation drags on. For Barcelona, it's imperative this matter is sorted out before January to prevent full-scale panic among their fanbase.