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Football Reporting


Koeman hoping Messi spends ‘many more years’ at Barcelona but leaves future call with Argentine

The Blaugrana boss is understandably keen to keep an all-time great on his books, but admits that decision remains out of his hands

Ronald Koeman would like to see Lionel Messi spend “many more years” at Barcelona, but admits that “the only person who can decide his future is Leo himself”.

Speculation continues to rage at Camp Nou regarding the future of a six-time Ballon d’Or winner.

There is a very real threat to the Blaugrana that a talismanic presence will walk away as a free agent at the end of the season.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are among those keeping a close eye on developments, with European heavyweights ready to pounce on an all-time great.

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Barca are still hoping that a superstar Argentine will not hit the market, with fresh terms possible, but Koeman accepts there is little he can do to influence that decision.

The Dutchman told reporters when asked about Messi at his press conference to preview a meeting with Real Betis: “As I said the other day, the only person who can decide his future is Leo himself.

“As a club, as the coach, I would like him to stay for many more years and will try to give him good sensations to be happy because we need him.

“If he is happy like he is at the moment, he gives so much quality to the team. He also helps the morale and brings good energy. He helps the team. 

“But as I have said before, only one person can decide the future in this case and it’s in his hands.”

Messi has been back to his best of late, netting six goals through as many appearances, but Barca are without a number of other players.

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Ansu Fati is a long-term absentee, with the 18-year-old suffering a serious knee injury, and Koeman is reluctant to be drawn on reports of the youngster enduring a setback in his recovery.

He said when quizzed on the exciting forward: “Out of respect for the player, I won’t speak about his recovery.

“When there is something, we will talk. The most important thing is that he recovers well. He has a long future ahead of him and he has to do things right.”

While Fati remains out of contention in the attacking department, Koeman has plenty of options to pick from at the back.

World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti has returned to fitness and favour, with fellow Frenchman Clement Lenglet now having to make do with outings off the bench.

Explaining that selection call, Koeman said: “He [Lenglet] has played many games. We have competition because Umtiti is fine now. It is better for everyone to have the centre-backs available.”

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