Barcelona icon Lionel Messi has decided to stay with the Catalan club for at least another season after months of speculation regarding his immediate future, according to reports. The 33-year-old, who is widely regarded as the best player in the history of the game, has been heavily linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain after refusing to commit his future to the Spanish giants last summer.
Messi unexpectedly asked to leave Barca at the end of last season, a decision that sent shockwaves around the football world.
What followed was a messy dispute with the club’s former president Josep Maria Bartomeu that ended with the forward reluctantly opting to remain at the Nou Camp until the expiry of his contract.
It seemed likely that he would seek a new challenge ahead of next season, either in the form of a reunion with Pep Guardiola at City or a move to PSG in order to link up with his old Barca team-mate Neymar.
However, it appears as though Messi has since decided to make a sensational U-turn, with the Argentine legend set to sign a new deal with his current employers, according to beIN Sports.
Last season’s humiliating 8-2 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals sparked doubts over his future, with the result proving critical in shaping his initial preference to leave the club.
Messi was adamant that he was free to leave due to a clause in his contract, but Barca argued that it was not valid because of the havoc caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a view that was ultimately shared by La Liga‘s decision-makers.
The club made a desperately poor start to the current campaign, but quickly managed to rescue their form and mount a title challenge that was only thwarted in the penultimate match of the season.
Messi’s decision to stay has likely been aided by Joan Laporta’s return as president, with the 58-year-old elected to replace Bartomeu back in March.
He made it clear from the outset that retaining Messi’s services would be his top priority, and reaffirmed his desire to keep hold of the forward last month.
“Everything is progressing adequately,” Laporta told Deportes Cuatro.
“I will do everything within the club’s capabilities to get him to stay. That’s what we’re doing. Messi is motivated.
“He is an extraordinary person and I am convinced that he will want to continue at Barca.”
Messi will be joined by compatriot Sergio Aguero at the Nou Camp next season, with the City forward reportedly agreeing terms to seal a move to the five-time Champions League winners on a free transfer this summer.
The pair are known to be good friends, with prior reports of Aguero’s desire to sign for Barca suggesting that his pal would eventually decide to stay at the club.
The City man lifted the lid on his relationship with Messi earlier this year, revealing that the latter is no stranger to a good moan while on international duty.
“Messi and I have been together [rooming with Argentina] since we were 17 years old,” Aguero told Spanish TV programme Santo Sabado.
“We are already 32 and 33 years old, we are like a worn-out married couple. He’s a big whiner. I always fall asleep with the TV on and the next morning he’s always complaining.”