Barcelona technical secretary Robert Fernandez has played down recent speculation linking Lionel Messi with a sensational move to Manchester City, assuring that the Argentine international will soon put pen to paper on his new deal.
On 5 July, the La Liga giants announced an agreement for five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi to continue at the Nou Camp until 2021.
“FC Barcelona and Leo Messi have agreed on a contract renewal that will keep the Argentinian at the club until June 30th, 2021,” a statement from the club confirmed. “The deal will be signed in the coming weeks, when Messi returns to the team for pre-season training.”
However, Messi is yet to sign the new contract following a frantic summer in which Barcelona have lost Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in a €222m (£202m, $260m) world-record transfer.
Messi would be available to make a free-agent move at the end of next season and reports from France over the weekend claimed that Manchester City were considering meeting his €300m release clause as soon as this summer.
Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta added more fuel to the speculation on Twitter, saying that Messi could eventually leave if current chief Josep Maria Bartomeu continues at Barcelona.
“If we want Messi to continue to be happy here at Barcelona then we need to get rid of Bartomeu immediately,” Laporta wrote on Twitter following those links with City.
But Barcelona’s technical secretary has allayed the fears of supporters, suggesting that Messi’s new deal is only a formality.
“The agreement with Messi is total,” Fernandez told beIN Sports. “We are just looking for the right time for the signature.”
It has been said that Messi wants Barcelona to fill the gap left by Neymar with some high-profile players before committing his future to the club.
Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho and Borussia Dortmund winger Ousmane Dembele have been identified as the two main targets, but the Catalans are yet to sign either of them with just 10 days of the transfer window remaining.
Fernandez said that the club are still trying to bring in some world-class players but conceded that it will not be easy due to the demands of their clubs.
“We are trying to bring in high-quality players but they do not have a (release) clause and that naturally leads to long negotiations with their clubs,” he added following Barcelona’s opening La Liga victory over Real Betis.
“Playing at Barcelona is not easy…it is a different dynamic and players will need to know they are playing games. It was important we started well (against Real Betis) following two defeats (to Real Madrid).”