The January transfer window of 2021 will offer the greatest indicator of whether Lionel Messi wants out of Barcelona, says Camp Nou presidential candidate Victor Font, with the expectation being that the superstar performer will be convinced to stay put.
As things stand, the six-time Ballon d’Or is entering the final 12 months of his current contract in Catalunya.
Messi is said to have shelved extension talks amid concerns regarding the leadership of Barca behind the scenes and struggles for consistency on the field.
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Exit talk has been sparked as a result, with Manchester City and Inter once again being mooted as possible landing spots for the all-time great.
If Messi were to hold out on agreeing fresh terms until the turn of the year, then he would be free to discuss pre-contract arrangements with any suitors.
Many are of the opinion that a compromise will be reached that allows the one-club man to remain in his current surroundings, with Font among those hoping to get the chance to work with the mercurial Argentine if he wins the race to replace Josep Maria Bartomeu in a prominent boardroom post.
“We do not have direct information on the case,” Font told Ole of the Messi rumours.
“The club, for its part, has stated that it is not aware of the player's decision to freeze negotiations for the renewal of his contract and that we are going to enjoy him for longer.
"We will soon know what is true in all of this because, in January, Leo will be free to negotiate with any club and, therefore, an agreement between Barca and the player should have been closed before then. Otherwise, we would be in a very serious situation.
“It is important to understand that the engine that drives Messi is to play the best football possible, win titles and make fans happy. Leo and his family have been happy living in Barcelona for many years and, frankly, I see him far away from wanting to generate or fuel controversy.
“Messi arrived at Barca 20 years ago, when he was 13, and neither I nor any Barcelona player can imagine Leo playing in a shirt that is not Barcelona's.
“He has been a one-club man and Barca and Messi must know how to always walk together. There will always be teams interested in Leo but the key is, and always will be, that he is happy playing here, offering him the best conditions to win everything.”
There have been claims that the departure of Bartomeu and other members of the Barca board will influence Messi’s thinking, with Font hoping that he can be the man to get the Blaugrana back on top of domestic and European games.
He added: “There is something much more important than the contract: the sports project that we are building for Barca.
“I am sure that learning about the project may be more interesting to a player like him than the type of contract. And in this sense, we have been working for years to reconstruct the entire technical structure of Barca and contacting the greatest Barcelona talent available.
“Barca's future project must have those professionals who know the style that has brought Barca to the top of world football. I'm sure this is far more important to someone like Leo than the type of contract.”