Lionel Messi agrees two-year extension to current deal
Contract will tie Argentine to Barcelona until he is 31
Xavi and Carles Puyol also agree new deals with Spanish giants
Lionel Messi has agreed a new contract with Barcelona, which will keep the Argentine at the Spanish club until 2018.
The 25-year-old already had a deal that expired with the European giants in 2016, but that has now been extended by two years.
Messi has been in sensational form this year, scoring 90 goals for both club and country to surpass the previous goalscoring record for a calendar year set by Gerd Mueller in 1972, when the German scored 85 goals.
Read: Messi beats Mueller’s 40-year record
The 21-time Spanish champions have also verbally agreed new deals with midfielder Xavi, who will extend his contract from 2014 until 2016, while defender Carles Puyol, whose contract had been due to expire next year, will stay with Barca until 2016.
None of the players has yet to put pen to paper on their new contracts but the Barca website says this will happen “over the course of the next few weeks”.
“This news means that FC Barcelona has secured its ties with three of its most important players,” the club said on its official website.
While both club captain Puyol, 34, and Xavi, 32, are significant figures at the club, Barcelona officials are likely to look upon the extension of Messi’s deal as the most important.
Widely regarded as the best footballer in the world, the diminutive Argentina international has often spoke of the debt of gratitude he believes he owes the Catalan club.
At the age of 11, Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency and neither his existing club in his home town Rosario – Newell’s Old Boys – nor Buenos Aires giants River Plate were prepared to provide the money to treat his condition, which amounted to some US$1,000 per month.
Instead, Barcelona, who had been made aware of his talents, offered to pay the medical bills of a boy who stood just 4ft 6in as long as he was prepared to move to Spain, a decision which Messi confirmed when signing his first contract with the club on the back of a paper napkin.
The 13-year-old moved to Barcelona with his family in 2000 – and the rest is (ongoing) history.
Despite his tender age, Messi has amassed a staggering collection of trophies and records.
Since making his Barcelona debut in 2003, he has collected three UEFA Champions League crowns, two FIFA Club World Cup titles, five Spanish league championships and two Copa del Rey medals.
Along the way, he has scored more goals for the club in both the Spanish league and European competition than any other player in Barcelona’s illustrious 113-year history.
On a personal basis, he has won three consecutive World Player of the Year titles and is favorite to beat teammate Andres Iniesta and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo to win this year’s FIFA Ballon D’Or (as the award became known in 2010).
Should he do so, Messi will become the first footballer to win the prestigious honor on four separate occasions – a record that would be made all the more notable by the absence of a World Cup winner’s medal in his cabinet.
For despite winning the 1995 FIFA World Youth Cup and the 2008 Olympic Games with Argentina, Messi has yet to go past the quarterfinals of the World Cup – and many commentators believe he needs to win that trophy if he is to lay claim to being the greatest footballer the world has ever seen.