Lionel Messi will see out his Barcelona contract after rejecting a new deal, according to reports in Spain.
Spanish sport daily, Marca, claim the Argentinian has rejected the offer of a new contract extension and will see out his current deal, which ends in 2018, before making a decision on his future. The Madrid-based newspaper suggest Messi’s ongoing dispute with Spanish tax authorities is one of the main reasons for his decision.
Messi was given a 21-month prison sentence in July for tax evasion after he and his father were accused of using tax havens in Uruguay and Belize to hide more than £3m in earnings.
Marca claim the five-time Ballon D’Or winner informed Barceloan of his intention to see out his current contract whilst on holiday with his family in July.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph in October, Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu appeared confident of retaining Messi’s long-term services.
“Right now Leo Messi has a contract to the end of the Russian World Cup [in 2018] and we are very happy with him. Very happy,” Bartomeu told Jason Burt.
“I don’t know what will happen in the future but of course we will always try to explain to him that he is at the best club in the world and this is the best place for him to live and he is living the best experience of his life with us.
Barcelona were last month buoyed by the news that Neymar had signed a new five-year deal that would keep him at the club until 2021 and Bartomeu appeared confident of securing Messi’s long-term services.
“Messi? Not yet. But we will have the negotiation with Messi in the next couple of months.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has made no secret of his admiration for his former star player, admitting he would be the first to call the playmaker if he became available.
“If you are talking about this summer, I never called Messi, I never called Neymar, Luis Suarez, Busquets, Iniesta, I didn’t call anybody,” Guardiola said in October ahead of Manchester City’s Champions League game with Barcelona.
“In the case of Leo, I really wish him to play here and finish his career here [at Barcelona]. But maybe he will think, ‘OK, I want to go play somewhere else’ because maybe he wants his kids to speak English or live a different experience, like has happened to many of us.
“Maybe it could happen, but if he decides to go and it happens, there would be a list of seven or eight clubs that would want to sign him, and it would be down to him. Messi will decide where to go.”
The reigning La Liga champions sit second placed in the table behind rivals Real Madrid who hold a two-point lead at the top.