Luis Enrique backs Messi to sign new deal and end career with Barca
By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said he believes Lionel Messi will sign a new contract with the Spanish champions despite reports the five times World Player of the Year is stalling over a new deal.
Spanish daily Marca reported this week that the Argentine is in no hurry to pen a new deal, and will instead delay negotiations until right before his current contract expires in June 2018.
"Perhaps it's best if the interested parties respond to this question, but I cannot imagine Messi away from this club," Luis Enrique told a news conference on Friday ahead of Barca's La Liga game with Malaga.
Messi made his debut for Barcelona aged 17, four years after moving to Spain from his home city of Rosario.
The player has said many times he wishes to see out his career at boyhood club Newell's Old Boys, who he supports, but Luis Enrique hopes Barca's all-time top scorer remains at the Nou Camp until he retires.
"It would be wonderful if someone who came here when he was so young could finish his career at the club that gave him his opportunity. That would be the best thing for everyone," added the coach.
Messi was in scintillating form for Argentina on Tuesday, scoring a splendid free kick and providing two assists in a 3-0 win over Colombia as Edgardo Bauza's side bounced back from a humiliating 3-0 defeat to arch rivals Brazil.
"The Leo Messi question is beyond any debate, he is the best player of all time," added Luis Enrique.
The coach's own contract with Barca runs out at the end of the current season and he dodged a question about his own future. Asked if he imagined himself staying at Barca forever, Luis Enrique said: "I have suddenly lost my imagination."
Barca will be boosted by the return of defenders Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and Jeremy Mathieu against Malaga on Saturday, although captain Andres Iniesta remains injured and Luis Suarez, joint top scorer in the league with Messi on eight goals, is suspended.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Toby Davis)