Barcelona have denied that talks with Lionel Messi over a new contract are already underway.
Reports in the Spanish press last week claimed that Messi’s father Jorge had travelled to meet with Camp Nou officials to begin negotiations over a new deal that would make the Argentina star the best-paid player in the world.
But Jordi Mestre, the club’s vice-president, stated after the 4-1 derby win over Espanyol that discussions had not yet been held – although he is confident of securing an agreement early next year.
“We still haven’t started negotiations for Messi’s renewal, but after those of Neymar and Luis Suarez, we hope to finalise it in the first trimester of the year,” he told Movistar Plus.
Head coach Luis Enrique welcomed the reports over Jorge Messi’s arrival as “good news” but refused to offer any kind of prediction on whether or not Messi would agree to extend his terms.
Team-mate Luis Suarez, who scored twice in the Espanyol rout, extended his own stay at Camp Nou until 2021 this week and urged Messi to follow suit.
“We hope he continues at the club,” he said. “He’s happy, he’s great and it’s he who has to decide. He has to make the decision.”
Speculation that Barca are prepared to boost Messi’s wages to make him the highest-paid player in the game are likely to increase following the announcement of a new shirt sponsorship deal.
The club announced on Sunday that Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten has agreed a four-year deal to become principle shirt sponsors – an agreement that will earn Barca €55million per year for the next four years, as well as a bonus of €1.5m for winning the league title and €5m for a Champions League triumph.
Vice-president for marketing and communications Manel Arroyo said after the deal was ratified: “Rakuten has the exact profile we were looking for a clear global vocation, which is consistent with our quest to be better known around the world.”
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