‘Lionel Messi at Barcelona forever’ – club president Josep Bartomeu

Lionel Messi will remain linked to Barcelona for the rest of his playing career and beyond, president Josep Maria Bartomeu has explained.

The Argentine star has already added 42 goals this season, bringing his total tally at the club up to 594 in 676 first-team appearances since his debut in the 2004-05 campaign.

Messi last penned a contract extension at the Blaugrana in November 2017 which runs through to the summer of 2021, when the player will be aged 34.

“We want him to have a really long career so we can keep on enjoying him,” Bartomeu told an exclusive interview with ESPN FC.

“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, 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.

“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.

“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.

“Maybe in three, four or five years, Leo Messi will say: 'OK, I am going to stop playing football.' So we are preparing our club for the future, for the time post-Leo.

“Because we would like to still be the top club at that time. So, it's a way of working, of investing, also of taking risks.

“We invest in young players, on homegrown players from La Masia, but also on bringing players from other clubs, just to keep this level of excellence.”

Tags Lionel Messi