Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta says keeping Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp must remain a top priority if the Catalans are to continue to compete in both Spain and in Europe in the future.
Messi is again having a fine season for the Blaugrana and hit another hat-trick in the club’s 5-0 win over Levante on Sunday.
The win means they remain just a point behind leaders and arch-rivals Real Madrid at the top of La Liga and Iniesta says Messi remains the key man, despite the arrivals of Luis Suarez and Neymar in the past two years.
The future of the Argentina international has been debated this season, amid claims he is not happy under current coach Luis Enrique, and he has been linked with Premier League clubs Manchester United, Man City and Chelsea, while French champions Paris Saint-Germain are also watching his situation closely.
Messi himself attempted to dampen the speculation when he said in January that he was fully committed to the club and happy to stay for the rest of his career but he then opened the door on a potential lucrative move away when admitting he “didn’t know what the future holds” when speaking at the Ballon d’Or award ceremony.
Iniesta, however, has stressed Barca must do all they can to ensure Messi stays where he is for the long-term.
He told the FIFA website: “I hope and wish that Leo can be with Barca for a long time, because he has been, is and will be fundamental to our competing for honours.
“That’s my sole desire.”
Barca are next in action when they host Malaga in La Liga on Saturday (Barca 1.12, Malaga 21.15, draw 7.70).