Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta has told Eurosport it is “non-negotiable” that the club extend Lionel Messi’s contract.
Messi tried to force a move out of Barca last summer, only for the 33-year-old to back down when it became clear he would have to drag it through court. His contract expires this summer.
Manchester City and PSG are considered the two main contenders to tempt Messi away from Catalonia, although MLS has also emerged as a potential destination after he admitted “he would enjoy living in the United States”.
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However, Laporta has made the Argentine's contract his top priority and is determined to keep him at Camp Nou.
“We have to extend Messi, it is non-negotiable,” Laporta told Eurosport Spain.
“Messi is a priority and we will try to convince him to continue writing the beautiful history between him and Barca.”
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Barcelona are in a troubled spell, hamstrung financially, partly due to the coronavirus pandemic, and seven points adrift of Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have two games in hand.
Pressure has eased on manager Ronald Koeman after an eight-game unbeaten league run, but Laporta stopped short of fully backing the Dutchman.
“Koeman is the current Barca coach, who deserves respect and who has the same margin as all the coaches,” said Laporta.
Laporta faces stiff competition to land the presidency with rival Emili Rousand promising Borussia Dortmund Erling Haaland to the club if he wins, and hyping up a move for PSG’s Kylian Mbappe.
“I love Barça and I feel challenged by the club. I love the club and I have a vocation to serve Barcelona,” added Laporta.
“And also because I have experience, preparation and determination to make the changes that the club needs to get out of the economic situation it is going through.”
Laporta is seeking a second spell in charge after his presidency between 2003-2010.
The election takes place on January 24.
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