Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has admitted for the first time that he is unsure whether Lionel Messi will remain at the club beyond the current season.
It took a bitter public feud between the player and club to convince Messi to see out the last year of his contract. However, it seems growingly likely that he will not be a part of the year next season.
Spanish publication El Mundo recently leaked information that Messi’s overall deal will cost Barcelona a whopping £492 million.
It is no secret that Barcelona is struggling with the financial implications of the pandemic. Koeman believes that it is entirely possible for Messi to finally put an end to his career at the club.
“I’m not confident about that,” Koeman told The Athletic on the prospect of Messi staying beyond the current campaign.
“I’m hopeful because he’s still a great player and he’s still winning matches for us, for the team.
“I’m enjoying being his coach, if you look at his qualities every day in the training sessions, it’s incredible. Of course, he came as a young kid to Barcelona. And I still don’t see Leo Messi in another shirt other than the Barca shirt.’
The feud between the player and club was in full swing when Koeman arrived at the club. The Dutchman said he stayed away from all of it and instead focused his energy on convincing Messi to stay at the club.
“I spoke to him in his house before we started the season. He was really enthusiastic,” Koeman said.
“He had some problems with the club and I was out of that.
“I said to Leo, ‘I’m really happy if you stay. If you don’t stay, it’s your decision and it’s what you have to handle with the club. If you stay, you will be part of the team. This will be your position to get all the best out of yourself.’
“Little by little, he accepted that situation. And look how he is playing in the last few weeks, he is really involved in the club, in the team. But, nobody knows what will happen in the future.”
Reunited with Pep at City?
While Messi has not been at his dominant best this season, he has still scored 16 times in 24 appearances. He remains the most important player at the club, the focal point around which all attacking play unfolds.
Manchester City is believed to be the likeliest destination for the Argentinian if he leaves. It will give him a chance to reunite with former manager Pep Guardiola.
Barcelona are currently second in La Liga, but trail Atletico Madrid by a significant margin of 10 points.