Messi must be at his best to earn new deal - Bartomeu

There has been talk of the Catalans cashing in on their star man to fund a dramatic overhaul of the club but the Blaugrana supremo says the Argentine will be given a better deal
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has ruled out selling Lionel Messi, revealing that the Catalans plan to offer the attacker an "improved" contract - on the proviso that the he maintains his incredibly high level of performance.

There have been reports that the Blaugrana could consider selling their most prized asset as they bid to overhaul the club following a week in which they were eliminated from the Champions League, slipped back to third in the race for La Liga and beaten by Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final.

However, Bartomeu has reassured Barca fans that the club will not cash in on Messi, explaining that they instead intend to give him a better deal.

"It’s not a question of offering a new contract," the Blaugrana supremo told 'Gol a Gol'. "We have proposed a modification of his existing contract, which will run until 2018.

"We want to offer him improved terms in line with the current climate in football.

"All we ask of him is that he continues to play as he has done until now."

However, while Messi's form, and indeed his motivation, have been the subject of much debate this season, Bartomeu insists that he has never lost confidence in the four-time Ballon d'Or winner.

"We’ve been unfair to him," he mused. "He had led the team for a number of years, he’s done an excellent job and we are sure that he will continue to be our standard bearer – and that is what he wants too.

"He’s still young, he’s the best player in the world and we have complete faith in him."

However, Bartomeu refused to confirm whether under-fire Barca boss Tata Martino will still be at Camp Nou next season.

"We respect the coach and we have to look towards the future as there are five league games left and we are in touch with the league leaders, who may slip up between now and the final day," he stated.

"We will deal with other issues when the time is right. Right now, we are focused on the league.

"We are behind him and will support him in these last few matches of the campaign."