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Josep Maria Bartomeu Wants 'One-Club' Lionel Messi at Barcelona 'Forever'

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2019

VILLAREAL, SPAIN - APRIL 02: Leo Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and FC Barcelona at Estadio de la Ceramica on April 2, 2019 in Villareal, Spain. (Photo by David Aliaga/MB Media/Getty Images)
MB Media/Getty Images

Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu said he wants the club's relationship with Lionel Messi to "last forever" amid talk of handing him a new contract. 

Messi has been with the club since the age of 13, and Bartomeu wants the Argentina international to continue his association with Barca for life.

He told ESPN FC's Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens: "Messi is a one-club man. It's more than what he does on the pitch—his relationship with Barca will last forever. I use the example of Pele, who was always at Santos. We want Messi to always be at Barca, whether that's playing or linked to the club [when he's retired]."

Now 31, Messi is the club's top scorer with 594 goals, and he has a little more than two years remaining on his contract, which Bartomeu wants to renew:

"We want him to have a really long career so we can keep on enjoying him. Lionel's managed to break down borders. Everyone admires him and he's applauded at other stadiums by rival fans.

"We would like to renew his contract, that's the idea. He is young—you can see that [in his performances]—and he still has two years on his deal. He's always improving, always innovating. I believe he still has many years in front of him and in the coming months we will sit down with him so that he has many more years at Barcelona."

The forward—who in recent years has dropped deeper and deeper to the point he virtually plays in midfield—has netted 42 goals in all competitions this season.

It marks the eighth time in his career he has surpassed 30 league goals in a single campaign, and it's the 10th season running that he's exceeded 40 in all competitions.

As well as being an elite goalscorer from open play, Messi has also become a sensational free-kick taker:

OptaJose @OptaJose

6 - @FCBarcelona's Lionel Messi is the first player in the top five European leagues to score 6+ direct free-kick goals in consecutive seasons since at least 2006/07. Magic. https://t.co/9tWU9PXhWA

As TalkSport's Lee Roden observed, the Argentinian has continued to get better and better:

Lee Roden @LeeRoden89

Similar thing with his right foot -- maybe four, five years ago or so Messi took a huge leap in his right-foot finishing ability. You can chart these kind of major skill improvements throughout his career

While earlier in his career he was much more reliant on his almost unrivalled dribbling skills, Messi not only remains capable of beating an opponent virtually at will, but he also has as varied a passing range as any top playmaker in the world.

That has seen him return 238 assists during his time with Barca.

Even the Pope, rather tongue in cheek, weighed in on his the Argentinian's talents:

B/R Football @brfootball

Plenty of evidence to the contrary, though 🙏 https://t.co/XOWsqlHMj4

Though Bartomeu wants Messi's association with the club to last, he's also aware that—while he's showing little sign of slowing just yet—the superstar isn't getting any younger;

"Messi changed completely the sense of Barca. In the way of keeping our club on top [in terms of] results, [winning the] top competitions and trying to win every season. Messi knows his body well and the day he believes he can't add [what he wants], he will leave. [We have] to prepare for the future. Leo Messi is our leader, he's the best player in the world of football, he's playing with us, he's playing fantastically, but we know it won't be forever."

The president is preparing for Messi's eventual departure, and he's eager to avoid a decline when he hangs up his boots.

Bartomeu pointed to the young additions Barca have made in recent years, such as Ousmane Dembele, Arthur and Frenkie de Jong.

It will be almost impossible to avoid any sort of decline upon losing a generational talent like Messi, but if those players can realise their potential, it will mitigate his departure.

In the meantime, Messi looks set to continue delivering plenty of success.

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