Lionel Messi cut short his family holiday to hold urgent talks with Barcelona’s new head coach Ronald Koeman over his future.
The club’s talismanic captain has been giving serious consideration to leaving the crisis-ridden Catalan giants after a turbulent season culminated in last Friday’s 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat against Bayern Munich.
Under-fire president Josep Bartomeu promised sweeping changes as a result of the most embarrassing result Barcelona had suffered in a generation, and he has already sanctioned the departures of Quique Setien and sporting director Eric Abidal.
Koeman, a former European Cup winner during his playing days at Camp Nou, was confirmed as Setien’s successor earlier this week and immediately set about the task of trying to convince Messi to commit his future to the seismic rebuilding project that is about to be undertaken.
According to RAC1, Messi left his holiday home in the Pyrenees to attend a meeting with Koeman but is said to have told the former Everton and Southampton boss he ‘no longer sees his future definitively at Barcelona’.
Koeman was asked about the 33-year-old’s future at his unveiling on Wednesday and made no secret of his desire to keep Messi and make him the focal point of a new-look side.
‘He’s still got a contract and is still a Barcelona player,’ said Koeman. ‘At this point I need to speak to him because he is the captain. We need to work with him and speak with various players. We need to make some decisions but in Messi’s case I hope he stays with us.
‘I don’t know if I have to convince Messi [to stay], whether it’s that or not. He is the best player in the world and the best player in the world you want in your team, you don’t want him playing against you.
‘As a coach I would love to work with Messi because he wins matches. If he’s at the ability and level he has always shown I’d be more than happy for him to stay.’
Forcing an exit from the club at which he has spent his entire professional career would be no easy task for Messi, given he recently extended his current contract by 12 months and the new deal includes a €700 million buyout clause.
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