Lionel Messi 'belongs to all of football' - Barcelona chief Josep Bartomeu
Barcelona star Lionel Messi needs to recharge and get back on his feet for the good of the game of football, said club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Bartomeu was speaking about Messi's decision to retire from the Argentina national team after the Albiceleste lost to Chile in the Copa America Centenario final.
The 29-year-old sparked an uproar in Argentina with his abrupt resignation. Messi is the national team's career leading scorer with 55 goals in 113 international appearances, but he has never led Argentina to a major title, losing finals to Brazil in the 2007 Copa America, Germany in the 2014 World Cup and Chile in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America.
Speaking to reporters during a Barcelona state of affairs address, Bartomeu congratulated Chile and Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo for his team's victory and also sent a message of support to his star forward.
"Regarding Messi and Masche [Javier Mascherano], we send them our support because they do not like to lose," he said. "Regarding Leo's decision with the national team, he is a player who always wants to win.
"This [quitting national team] is a personal matter for him. He will evaluate it and decide. There have been many shows of support. That is normal because he is the best player in the world.
"For Argentina to not have the best? Well, Messi belongs to all of football. In Barcelona our playing schedule is rough. And we understand that players want to join their national teams. What we want is for him to return to Barcelona with a new way of thinking and the desire to start over."
Bartomeu reassured reporters that Messi will remain with the club.
"Of course we are going to renew his contract. He is the best player in the world and every day he gets better," he said. "Although he has two years left on his contract, we want him to stay with us much longer."
Bartomeu also said that it was in the club's interests to support players who have tax cases and that they would continue to do so.
"Messi is a private persona and at all times he has had the support of the club at the level of the president and with our legal team and advisers," he said. "There is no doubt in my mind that Messi understands this."
In summing up the 2015-16 season, Bartomeu said he was pleased overall despite Barcelona's Champions League exit.
"We are very happy with the team and the coach. We won seven of the last nine titles in contention and we have Messi, who is the best in the world," he said.
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