‘Messi will never leave Barcelona’

lionel-messi_3297746bBarcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu predicted on Wednesday that Lionel Messi would not only extend his contract with the Catalan club but also end his playing days there too.

Speaking at the launch of a 55 million euros a year shirt sponsorship deal Bartomeu told journalists he was “relaxed about Messi’s contract”.

With the clock ticking and only 18 months left on Messi’s deal, the club want to extend it, as they did with Neymar and as they are trying to do with Luis Suarez.

“We are all convinced that he will end his playing days at the heart of this club. All the socios (stake-holding fans) believe it, it’s just a question of how we get over the line,” Bartomeu said.

“This player has led us to our great sporting successes in recent years and he will continue to do so, he is far from finished,” he added.

Spanish sports daily Marca had sown doubt over the 29-year-old Messi’s future on Monday with claims the Argentine was stalling over a new deal and flirting instead with the idea of joining his former coach Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

Brazilian superstar Neymar signed a new five-year contract with Barcelona in October that will keep the 24-year-old at the Spanish champions until 2021, saying he felt “at home” at the Camp Nou.

European Golden Shoe winner Luis Suarez said last week negotiations to extend his contract with Barcelona until 2021 were running smoothly.

Messi leads Argentina team ban on talking to media

Argentina Captain Lionel Messi with 26-men squad announcing boycott of press.─AP
Argentina Captain Lionel Messi with 26-men squad announcing boycott of press.─AP

Lionel Messi led his 26-man Argentina squad in a protest on Tuesday against perceived mistreatment by the media, saying they were boycotting the press until further notice.

Messi had just inspired a 3-0 home win over Colombia scoring one goal and laying on the other two to put Argentina’s World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.

“We have decided not to speak any more with the press,” Messi announced in the post-match press conference room with his 25 team mates attending.

“We’ve received many accusations, a lot of lack of respect and we never said anything. We’re very sorry it has to be like this but we have no option,” said the captain.

“We know there are lots of you who are not in the game of not showing us respect but getting into one’s personal life is very grave and that’s why we’re here (announcing this),” he added before they all walked out.

The players have suffered criticism by sectors of the Argentine media over a loss of form and poor results, but their decision was sparked by a radio report alleging Ezequiel Lavezzi smoked marijuana after a practice.

It transpired at the press conference that Lavezzi is taking the Radio Mitre reporter to court.

Argentina were slated by some media after going down 3-0 to Brazil in Belo Horizonte last Thursday.

Barca strikes new sponsorship deal with Japan’s Rakuten

FC Barcelona's President Josep Maria Bartomeu and Rakuten's President and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani pose with a jersey after signing a contract as main sponsor. —Reuters
FC Barcelona’s President Josep Maria Bartomeu and Rakuten’s President and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani pose with a jersey after signing a contract as main sponsor. —Reuters

Japanese online retailer Rakuten will be Barcelona’s main sponsor for the next four years in a deal worth at least 55 million euros a year, saidthe Spanish giants on Wednesday.

Rakuten will replace Qatar Airways, Barcelona’s shirt sponsor since 2013, who were reported to have paid 35 million euros for the final year of their deal taking them up to the end of the 2016-17 season.

“I have the pleasure and honour to announce that the board of directors has approved that RAKUTEN be the new main and global sponsor of the club for the next four years,” saidBarcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Despite Champions League disappointment last season, it won both La Liga and the Copa Del Rey, Spain’s two domestic competitions.

The club also has some of the world’s most recognisable stars — vital marketing assets for the club’s partners — who have millions of followers on social media.

The announcement of the new sponsorship deal comes as the club is set to begin work in 2018 on an extensive renovation of their Camp Nou home that will see the capacity of Europe’s biggest stadium extended to 105,000 and an open facade to allow views across the city.

A budget of 420 million euros has been estimated for the project that will be financed in large part by proceeds from sponsorship. AFP/REUTERS

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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