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Xavi confident Messi will stay at Barcelona

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Britain Football Soccer - Celtic v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group C - Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland - 23/11/16 Barcelona's Lionel Messi applauds fans as he celebrates after the game Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith Livepic
Britain Football Soccer - Celtic v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group C - Celtic Park, Glasgow, Scotland - 23/11/16 Barcelona's Lionel Messi applauds fans as he celebrates after the game Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith Livepic

By Richard Martin

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona great Xavi Hernandez cannot imagine Lionel Messi leaving the Catalan club, despite the Argentine forward stallingover a new contract with the La Liga champions.

Xavi is Barca's all-time appearance leader and was the heartbeat of the club's midfield from 1998-2015, spending nine years in the first team alongside Messi, who made his debut in 2004.

"I'm in contact with Messi and I think he's happy and satisfied. He knows Barcelona is the best club in the world for him and I can't see him in any other club," Xavi, who now plays for Al Sadd in Qatar, told radio station Cope on Friday.

Messi is Barcelona's all-time leading scorer but has yet to commit to an extension on his current contract, which runs out in 2018. His buy-out clause is set at 250 million euros ($266.03 million).

"I haven't spoken to him about his new contract but if I was to bet, I wouldn't expect Messi to go to another club. He could get more money elsewhere but I don't think he is interested in just money, he is more concerned about stability," Xavi added.

Xavi won 25 major trophies with Barcelona, including eight La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues, before leaving for Al Sadd in 2015.

The former Spain international, 36, plans on becoming a coach when he retires from playing, saying his ultimate aim was to take over at Barcelona.

Barcelona trail arch rivals Real Madrid by six points following a shaky display in last week's 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad and could drop nine points behind their arch rivals when they meet in the 'Clasico' on Saturday.

"Perhaps Barca are under more pressure because of the points gap but Clasicos are unique games, you can be 20 points behind and have a brilliant game or vice versa. The display at Real Sociedad means nothing," Xavi said.

Barcelona have an almost full strength squad available against Real and welcome back captain Andres Iniesta after six weeks out with a knee injury.

Xavi believes the return of his former midfield partner will be pivotal to Barca's chances of winning the game.

"Iniesta is a transcendent player for Barcelona," he added."They say that now the team is lacking control and thought. Well, Iniesta will bring that back."

($1 = 0.9398 euros)

(Editing by John O'Brien)


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