Messi Knows Barca Have ‘Great Future’ But Only He Can Make Decision, Says Koeman

Ronald Koeman says Lionel Messi knows Barcelona have a “great future” but admits only he can decide whether he will stay with the club.

Messi has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona but his contract expires at the end of the season, leading to speculation he could leave the Nou Camp in the coming months.

Despite goals from the captain in both legs, Barcelona exited the Champions League at the last-16 stage on Wednesday night after a 5-2 aggregate defeat to Paris Saint-Germain.

They lost the first leg 4-1 at home, the latest in a string of heavy defeats in the competition that has seen them reach just one semi-final in the last six years.

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However, Koeman – who replaced Quique Setien at the start of the season – believes Barcelona have a bright future, saying: “Leo has seen for quite some time that the team is improving thanks to all the changes we’ve made.

“Particularly, we have young players of great quality. We’ve got a great future ahead. Leo can’t have any doubts about what the future holds for this team.

“I think Leo is the one who has to decide his future. Nobody can help him with this. I think he knows that this Barca team is on the right path.

“I think this can’t be the reason for him not staying.”

Messi attempted to leave Barcelona last summer by exercising a clause in his contract that he believed entitled him to walk away from the club for nothing.

However, former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted the clause had expired and Messi would only be allowed to leave if his €700m release clause was met, resulting in the 33-year-old reluctantly agreeing to stay.

Bartomeu was forced to resign last year though, and was replaced this month by former president Joan Laporta, who has stated publicly he wants Messi to stay.

The Argentina international won four La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues during Laporta’s previous reign – between 2003 and 2010 – during which time Pep Guardiola was appointed as manager.

However, Laporta’s goal of keeping Messi at the club is made harder by Barcelona’s precarious financial position, with Spanish newspaper El Mundo claiming the club have over €1billion of debt.

El Mundo also revealed details of Messi’s contract, claiming payments of up to £122m each year made him the highest-paid athlete in history. Barcelona have threatened legal action over the leak.

Barcelona’s earliest exit from the Champions League for 14 years means their focus for the rest of the season will be on closing the six-point gap to Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga, as well as next month’s Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao.

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