Ronald Koeman says he's "not confident" that Lionel Messi will stay at Barcelona, but cannot imagine him playing for another club.
Messi has entered the final five months of his current contract at Camp Nou, with speculation over his future intensifying with each passing week.
The 33-year-old has insisted he will wait until the end of the season before making a final decision on his future, but he is being tipped to call time on his illustrious career at Barca amid reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain , Manchester City and Inter.
He has been as influential on the pitch as ever in 2020-21 despite the persistent transfer rumours, scoring 16 goals in 24 games to help the Blaugrana challenge for silverware on multiple fronts once again.
Koeman has been delighted with his recent contribution, but admits he's not sure whether the six-time Ballon d'Or winner will remain in Catalunya beyond the summer.
Asked if he thinks Messi will end up committing to fresh terms at Camp Nou, the Dutchman told The Athletic : “I’m not confident about that.
"I’m hopeful, yes, about this because he’s still a great player and he’s still winning matches for us, for the team.
"I’m enjoying being his coach, if you look at his qualities every day in the training sessions, it’s incredible.
"Of course, he came as a young kid to Barcelona. And I still don’t see Leo Messi in another shirt other than the Barca shirt.”
Koeman added on his relationship with the Argentine: “I don’t have any problems with Leo.
"He is the captain of the team, I speak to Leo about tactical things and we have a really good professional relationship that I have with all the players.
"But he is… OK, he’s the captain, so you always have more communication with him.”
Messi tried to secure a move away from Barca following their stunning Champions League exit at the hands of Bayern Munich last season, but found his exit path blocked by club and La Liga officials, who asserted that the release clause in his contract had expired.
He ultimately pledged to continue at Camp Nou for another season , but Koeman has revealed that the Blaugrana captain had a hard time accepting the reality of his situation initially.
“It was a difficult time because he’s still the best player, but he was angry about some situations in the club,” said Koeman.
“And he was not happy that he was in a team who lost 8-2 against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the Champions League. Of course, he was angry, he had to leave, he wanted to leave the team.
“First of all, what I said to the club was, ‘OK, it’s not my problem. It’s a problem between the club and Leo Messi. And you have to resolve that’.
"Finally, the club said, ‘We don’t make a transfer for him. He needs to stay’. It was a difficult time for Leo but he finally accepted it.
“I spoke to him in his house before we started the season and I made plans with him and he was really enthusiastic. I knew that he had some problems with the club and I was out of that.
"I said to Leo, ‘I’m really happy if you stay. If you don’t stay, it’s your decision and it’s what you have to handle with the club. If you stay, you will be part of the team and this will be your position to get all the best out of yourself’. Little by little, he accepted that situation.
"And look how he is playing in the last few weeks, he is really involved in the club, in the team. But, nobody knows what will happen in the future.”