Martino: Iniesta is an emblem of Barcelona

As contract negotiations rumble on, the Blaugrana coach is confident a new deal for the midfielder will be concluded soon and says Lionel Messi is benefitting from additional rest
Gerardo Martino has described Andres Iniesta as an "emblem" of Barcelona and is confident he will soon sign a new contract.

The 29-year-old is yet to agree a new deal as the club attempt to tie him down beyond 2015, although the Spain international previously insisted thak he was not "at war" with Barca over the negotiations.

"In every club there are players who are images of their clubs. I see Iniesta as an image of Barca," Martino told a press conference on Friday. "I think it's quite logical he should renew, I see him as one of the emblematic players at the club and we want him to stay."

The former Newell's Old Boys coach went on to discuss the fitness of Lionel Messi, stressing his belief that his management of the player's fitness was paying off despite the Argentine's frustration at being substituted in the win over Real Sociedad.

"Messi's looking good. I can't compare him to how he was in other seasons at this stage but he's looking very good indeed," he enthused. "He recovers well from one game to the next. Against Rayo [Vallecano] he didn't score but it was one of the best games he's played since I've been here.

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"Of course they don't like being taken off - no player does. I don't ask them about being rotated because I know what they'll say to me. The important thing is that they are fit for the final stages of the season next year."

Martino also believes that Neymar will benefit from a similar pattern of rest due to his exhaustive commitments with the Brazil national team.

"Neymar's case is similar to Messi's. Neymar will get his chances, as I said previously. Taking into account the internationals he played in August, he's played more minutes than anyone in the squad apart from goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Now he's been called up to the Brazil squad and in previous friendly games he's played the full 90 minutes.

"I want to look after him, protect him. He's got to rest. The important thing is that the players are in good shape towards the end of the season. There's been games every three and a half days - that's a lot of football."

Real Madrid were given a fortunate penalty to beat Elche near the end of the match on Wednesday but Martino refused to criticise the officiating in Spain, instead calling on his side to focus on maintaining their own strong run of form.

"It's difficult to talk about referees. Sometimes you don't want to talk just after a game when it's not the right time. There's no point in throwing referees to the lions," he remarked.

"I didn't see the game. As for the [Madrid] derby, it'll be a good game to watch. It's certainly the game of the week. Of course, we've got to think about winning our games. The important thing is that we beat Almeria."

Finally, Martino indicated that Carles Puyol was close to a return following a lengthy injury lay-off, but refused to divulge whether Marc Bartra would keep his place in the starting XI.

"Bartra? I won't mention the starting line-up. The best thing about Marc is his character, he's a young player, although he has to be more relaxed in games," the coach added.

"Puyol? He had a practice game with the youngsters, that went well. He played almost the whole game. He's been out for seven months but he's much closer to coming back. When a player is injured we will not rush them back. The important thing is for them to recover fully."