Lionel Messi 'wants to play for Barcelona next season' despite transfer interest insists presidential candidate Laporta

LIONEL MESSI wants to stay at Barcelona next season, insists presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

The club captain, 33, is out of contract at the end of the season.

Messi came close to quitting the club last summer when he handed in a transfer request before being forced into a dramatic U-turn to honour the final year of his contract.

He stated in December he still 'doesn't know' what he will do in the summer with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City battling to sign him on a free transfer.

Laporta, though, reckons he will go nowhere and remain at the Nou Camp – and made it clear Barcelona's £1billion debt is not the Argentine's fault.

The favourite to win the upcoming presidential election on March 7 said: "I have indications that he feels good at Barcelona and that he wants to stay here.

"Messi generates more revenue than the money he costs. We have carried out a study that shows that a third of what the club makes comes from him.

"'It's not Messi who has ruined the club, it's the last board who lost their financial discipline back in 2015 and then lost their way after selling Neymar in 2017."

Laporta was Barca chief between 2003 and 2010, overseeing Messi's rise to superstardom and a hugely successful period for the club.

And his priority will be appeasing Messi after the public spat with former president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

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Asked what he would do if the six-time Ballon d'Or does try to force an exit, Laporta added: "I would ask him to reconsider. I would tell him that money is no guarantee of winning things.

"If Messi stays we can build a team around him.

"It's also not true that he runs the club. Messi just wants the club to have a good project. It's not economic it's about emotion. It's all that he has given this club.

"Eight out of ten shirts we sell are his. And seeing Messi at Barcelona frightens rivals. You cannot put a price on the sporting and emotional returns we get from him.

"We have been able to turn our situation around regarding the trophies we have won compared with our rivals. That is thanks to Leo. Without him we would not have been able to win as much.

"It's clear that we have to do everything we can in economic and sporting terms to make sure he stays. We can't be focused on him leaving; we have to focus on him staying."

What is clear is that there was a leak. If I win the election I will try to find out who is responsible.

Details of Messi's mammoth £492million contract at Barcelona – the biggest player deal in sport – was leaked over the weekend.

El Mundo obtained a copy of the 30-page confidential paperwork, which details a fixed salary, image rights, variables as well as the tax that Barcelona have had to pay.

The club and Bartomeu have both strenuously denied leaking the documents to the Spanish newspaper.

On the details being made public, Laporta said: "What my suspicions are does not matter.

"What is clear is that there was a leak. If I win the election I will try to find out who is responsible. I will ring Javier Tebas (head of LaLiga) to see if he knows anything.

"There are only five people [at Barcelona] who have this contract in their custody: the president, the director general, the sporting director, the club's legal advisers and human resources."

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