As recently as a few months ago, it was unthinkable to utter the words “Barcelona,” “sell” and “Lionel Messi” in the same sentence.
But things can and do change quickly in the world of top-level soccer, and Messi’s name has shockingly crept into the transfer rumor mill.
The president of Messi’s club, FC Barcelona, and Messi’s father have addressed those rumors in recent days, delivering similar messages: Messi isn’t going anywhere.
On Sunday, Jorge Messi told L’Equipe that his son wasn’t thinking about moving to the mega-rich French club Paris Saint-Germain, according to Sky Sports.
“I have heard about those rumours and I don’t know where it came from,” Jorge Messi said. “There is nothing so far. Lionel is a Barcelona player, where he is under contract for several years [until 2018].
“It is an honor to know PSG could think about him. But I repeat it is not a subject we want to think about now.
“The only reality is his contract with Barca. I don’t know what we are talking about when people talk about a transfer here or there. We don’t want to think about anything, neither Paris nor any other team.”
Messi, 26, has played 400 games for Barcelona since 2004. His 331 goals were instrumental in the six La Liga (Spain’s first division) titles, three UEFA Champion Leagues, two Copa del Reys (Spanish cup) and two FIFA Club World Cups Barcelona has won with Messi in its lineup. The Argentine forward has also won four FIFA Ballon d’Or awards to add to his considerable collection of winners’ medals.
Widely considered one of the sport’s all-time greats, Messi is a symbol of Barcelona’s recent dominance of Spanish and European soccer. In February 2013, Messi signed a contract with Barcelona, which ties him to the club until 2018. On Monday, Barcelona’s acting president Josep Maria Bartomeu said the club is ready to discuss a new contract with Messi, according to Sky Sports.
“Messi is not for sale,” Barotomeu reportedly told Spanish radio station RAC 1. “We want to sit down, without any rush, with his father and his agent because we want to ensure he’s the best-paid player like he deserves.
“It won’t be anything imminent because the players right now are focused on competition.”
Messi scored 60 goals in 50 games last season, but muscle injuries and a hamstring tear have prevented him from reaching his usual lofty heights this season. Messi has scored 18 goals in all competitions this season, but a league-goal drought, which dates back to September has sparked whispered speculation that all is not well between Barcelona and him.
Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid were reportedly interested in buying Messi from Barcelona last summer (with the help of Adidas), but he refused to even consider a potential move. In late December, Manchester City teammates Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero publicly urged Messi to join them at the Premier League club. City’s Pablo Zabaleta claimed that his compatriot and friend Messi regularly asks him about life at Manchester City just a few days later.
Messi joined Barcelona when he was just 13. After signing his latest contract last year, Messi said that he would not play for another European club. Barcelona has endured some boardroom and coaching upheaval since then, which could be why Messi Sr. invoked the age-old response when L’Equipe asked him if there was a possibility that his son would leave Barcelona in the not-too-distant future.
“Can I assure Messi will play at Barca next season? He is under contract,” Jorge Messi said. “Then in football, you know we never know what can happen.
“I don’t know what will be tomorrow made of. Only God knows.”