Barcelona chief Josep Maria Bartomeu has insisted Lionel Messi will stay put – and also opened up on a chat he had with the Argentina international about Real Madrid. Los Blancos currently sit top of the La Liga table by four points with just four matches to play. And the Nou Camp supremo also claimed any possible transfer for Neymar this summer was ‘unlikely’ due to the coronavirus crisis.
Messi has cut a frustrated figure at Barcelona with the La Liga giants struggling under both Ernesto Valverde and Quique Setien.
That’s led to talk of a possible move away from the Nou Camp for the 33-year-old, with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain all linked.
Yet Bartomeu has insisted Messi will stay and claimed that he talked with the Argentina international, urging him not to give up amid their fight for the La Liga title.
“He has a contract until 2021,” he told RAC1.
“We do not explain these things, but we have an obligation to renew it.
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“I spoke with him on Saturday, [which] was the last time [I saw him]. I speak [with the players] to see how they are, and we have many issues on the table.
“Also I encourage them, I tell them not to lower their arms [in the title fight against Real Madrid], [and] to compete.
“I see Messi as calm, he wants to retire from soccer at Barça, he has said it.”
Messi wants Neymar back at Barcelona.
He admitted as such nearly a year ago and his opinion is unchanged, with the 33-year-old believing the PSG forward holds the key to Champions League glory.
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Yet Bartomeu has claimed it’s ‘unlikely’ that Barcelona will go in for Neymar, who controversially quit the club for PSG three years ago.
“It is unlikely, due to the economic situation of all the clubs in Europe,” he said.
Bartomeu also gave Setien his backing, insisting the Barcelona boss would remain in charge until the end of the season at least.
The former Real Betis coach was only appointed as Valverde’s replacement back in February but the team have failed to respond to his methods.
Yet Bartomeu vowed to stand by him, saying: “He will continue, obviously.
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“I am happy with the evolution of the team. In the last two games we have already seen an evolution.
“First we’ll try to win La Liga and then the Champions League. We fought for the game to be at the Camp Nou, [and] UEFA is waiting for the evolution of the situation.
“[Xavi was] a great player and [is a great] coach, and one day he will be in charge of the team.
“[But] now we have Setien. Xavi wants to come, one day he will come and he will do very well.”
On Lautaro Martinez, the Inter Milan star on Barcelona’s transfer radar, he said: “We will talk when the season ends. Barca has no dates on the calendar. Now we are [still] in the league.”
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