Josep Maria Bartomeu

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Abidal: Barcelona, Messi negotiating a new deal

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Lionel Messi and his representatives are in talks with Barcelona over a new contract, the defending champion’s sporting director Eric Abidal confirmed  to Mundo Deportivo in an exclusive interview.

“They are already talking,” Abidal, the former Barcelona defender, said. “I do not know if we will have news soon because the decision will depend on the player, but for us as a club I hope it is sorted as soon as possible.”

Messi – a five-time Ballon d’Or winner and Barcelona’s all-time leading goalscorer – joined the club’s well-known academy, La Masia, at the age of 13 and is under contract until 2021 but was recently questioned about his future after Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the Argentine can leave Camp Nou on a free transfer due to a clause in his contract.

Asked when he expects an announcement to be made on a new and improved contract, Abidal made it clear he’s unsure but hopes it happens: “It will be known when it is known, but I am positive.”

Throughout seven games in La Liga this season, Messi has scored eight goals and assisted in four occasions. In his latest appearance for the Catalonian side – a 4-1 win over Celta Vigo – the No. 10 scored a first-half hat-trick.

Abidal also confirmed that Barcelona are in talks with breakout teenage starlet Ansu Fati and his camp on a new deal.

“We are also talking to him,” Abidal said. “He is a young player that we have to protect. We have to talk to his family and representatives.”

Earlier this year, the 17-year-old became the youngest player in the league’s history to score and assist in the same game.

Report: Messi will not trigger exit clause this summer

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Barcelona is confident that Lionel Messi is not going anywhere, but the best attacker of his generation and probably ever will not sign a new deal before the end of his current contract.

Yes, that means Barca risks losing him on a free, but the club isn’t too worried abut it (at least publicly).

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Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu says Barcelona will offer Messi a lifetime contract, but Marca is reporting both good and bad news on that front.

The good? Messi won’t trigger his exit clause in June.

The bad? He won’t sign a new deal until next season.

The report says leaving Barca “hasn’t crossed his mind,” and that he “has no intention” of doing so. That would make the new contract a bit of a moot point; If Barca knows he will stay, they just write down the present highest salary in the world on a piece of paper at that time and he signs.

“If Leo feels strong and ambitious, extended his contract indefinitely will surely be the will of everyone involved,” Bartomeu said. “I always compare him with Pele. Pele was a one-club man in Brazil. I have no doubt that, after Messi hangs up his boots, he will stay linked to this club for the rest of his life.”

Messi has 612 goals and 247 assists in 698 appearances for Barcelona. That is pretty good.

Messi free to talk to other clubs on Jan. 1; Barca confident of new deal

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The greatest player of his generation has only played in the Blaugrana, but could that tenure come to a surprising early conclusion?

Lionel Messi, 32, has a contract with Barcelona through the 2020-21 season, but multiple outlets are reporting that he can entertain offers on Jan. 1 and leave the club.

He has 603 goals and 242 assists in 687 matches for Barca. Bum can’t even average a goal per game.

[ USMNT-MEXICO: 3 things | Player ratings ]

That’s not unusual for legends of the club, as Barca has long given leeway to servants on the back end of their time at the Camp Nou.

The club is still planning for a good deal of time with Messi, and is ready to tie him down to a longer term deal but calm about the player’s decision process.

Here’s Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu:

“It’s the same case as with the final contracts that Xavi, Puyol and Iniesta had. They are players who deserve that liberty, and we shouldn’t worry, as they are very committed to Barça. We want Messi to play for Barça through to 2021 and beyond. We are very calm.”

Calm is nice, but you can forgive Barca for feeling a bit of stress regarding life without their captain. The club has had a poor start to the season largely because Messi has been unavailable. With apologies to Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez, Messi is the club’s mystique right now (as Frenkie de Jong looks the closest thing to its next star).

It’s difficult to envision Messi in a different shirt, but if he does entertain offers he’ll hear wild ones from his old boss Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. And maybe, just maybe, a mega swap with PSG that involves the only transfer item in the world brighter than Messi: Kylian Mbappe.

Bartomeu also said that Barca will not sign Neymar in January.

Barcelona against haste of bigger Club World Cup

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MIAMI (AP) The president of Barcelona spoke out against the haste to introduce a 24-team Club World Cup in 2021 ahead of the FIFA Council deciding Friday whether to approve the pilot of the enlarged tournament.

European clubs have publicly resisted FIFA’s bid to replace the current seven-team annual Club World Cup, which is played annually in December, with an expanded quadrennial version in June-July.

[ MORE: Analyzing the draw ]

Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu backs a revamp of the competition, just not until the entire calendar for club and national team matches is reconfigured for 2024 and beyond to cope.

“We have to take care of the footballers,” Bartomeu said in an interview with The Associated Press in Miami, where the FIFA Council is meeting. “We have to take care about the way of training and the vacation they need to recover every season that they do. If the calendar is not modified, of course we cannot agree.”

In 2021, FIFA envisages the window for international matches – which is likely to include 2022 World Cup qualifiers – running May 31-June 8. The Club World Cup would be held June 17-July 4, while the African Cup of Nations and CONCACAF Gold Cup could be played July 5-July 31. European club seasons typically start around mid-August.

FIFA believes the proposed 24-team Club World Cup would “promote and grow football for the benefit of all confederations, member associations, leagues, clubs and fans,” according to a task force report on new FIFA competitions seen by the AP.

In the first edition, South America would have six slots – one based on previous performances. Three each would go to teams from Africa, Asia and CONCACAF, which represents North and Central America. Oceania would get one representative. The confederations would decide their own qualification process, whereas now each continental champion qualifies for the Club World Cup along with the host country.

“We know the current form doesn’t work,” FIFA Vice President Victor Montagliani told the AP. “The top clubs in the world have fans all over the world. So, I think it’s a natural progression of that competition.”

The expanded tournament would start with eight groups of three, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals. Teams would play two to five matches over a maximum of 18 days.

According to a FIFA document seen by the AP, the governing body’s council will be asked on Friday to approve a trial 24-team Club World Cup running from June 17-July 4, 2021. That is the slot previously reserved for the Confederations Cup, which serves as a test event in a host nation a year before the World Cup.

“An opportunity to keep growing the competition will always be accepted from our league and our clubs,” Enrique Bonilla, the president of the Mexican league, told the AP. “It helps to give exposure and it helps to make clubs from other parts of the world to be more competitive, and to grow, and to learn from those great players that are now playing in Europe.”

Also Friday, the FIFA Council will be asked to approve the recommendations of a feasibility study into adding another 16 teams for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.

The council will be asked to allow FIFA and Qatar to jointly submit a proposal on using “one or more additional co-host countries” in the Persian Gulf before a final decision in June on enlarging the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.

A document sent to the FIFA Council says its members will be asked if they agree with the report’s conclusion that World Cup expansion is “feasible provided that neighboring countries host some matches.”

The FIFA study seen by the AP says Qatar would not be forced to share games with Bahrain, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates unless those countries restore diplomatic and travel ties with Doha. Because of their neutrality in the situation, Kuwait and Oman are indicated to be the current possible options identified by FIFA to host games in 2022 but their stadium infrastructure is only briefly assessed in a FIFA report.

Venues in at least one more country would be required to cope with the additional 16 teams and 16 games under the expansion proposal.

“As long as it’s well studied and well thought out, I think CONCACAF would have no issues supporting that,” said Montagliani, who leads the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Football.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Report: Neymar has been asking Barcelona to buy him back

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This is pretty sad.

Not in a “death of a family pet” way, rather a “buck up, son” way.

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Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar wants to return to Barcelona, and the megastar’s father has contacted Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu a handful of times in a bid to return to the Camp Nou.

From Marca:

“He is disappointed and sorry,” El Mundo report the player’s father as saying to the Barcelona president.

Anyway, if true, this is a big one (even if a move clearly wouldn’t happen until the summer).

The left winger has 18 goals and nine assists in 21 matches this season, including five and two in the UEFA Champions League. He was blanked against Napoli but had a goal and an assist against Liverpool.

His PSG record on the whole is unreal, with 46 goals and 25 assists in 51 games.

At 26, he’s got years left in his prime and Malcom, Ousmane Dembele, and Philippe Coutinho have yet to grab the proverbial bulls by their horns.

Here’s why the move would not necessarily be insane rumor mill click-mongering: It takes a special cat to thrive with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, and Neymar has proven he can do that. In fact, he’d likely be in line to play a bigger role than when he previously spent time at Barca.