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Barcelona confident of new Lionel Messi deal, talks yet to start - Mestre

Barcelona have still not begun contract talks with Lionel Messi but they remain confident he will commit his future to the club early in the New Year.

Luis Suarez became the latest Barca star to sign a new deal last week, extending his stay at the Camp Nou until 2021, following the renewals of Sergio Busquets, Javier Mascherano and Neymar.

Messi is the player fans of the club are most desperate to see handed a new contract, though. It has been nearly three years since Messi last penned fresh terms and his current deal is due to expire in 2018.

His father, Jorge Messi, flew into the Catalan city earlier this month, reportedly to begin negotiations with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, but vice president Jordi Mestre says talks are yet to start. 

"We haven't started negotiations for Messi's renewal," he told Movistar after Barca's 4-1 win against Espanyol. "But after those of Neymar and Luis Suarez, we hope to finalise it in the first trimester of the year." 

Suarez, who scored two goals in Barca's Catalan derby win on Sunday, also spoke about Messi's situation following the game.

Lionel Messi was key in Barcelona's crushing of Espanyol on Sunday.
Lionel Messi will be out of contract with Barcelona in 2018.

"I hope he continues at the club," he told Movistar. "But it's [Messi] who has to decide. He knows where is best for him."

While Suarez scored two, it was Messi who once again wrote the headlines in the win against Espanyol. He scored one but set up the second and third goals with dazzling dribbling and close control, leaving managers of both sides -- Luis Enrique and Quique Sanchez Flores -- hailing his performance

The fact that Messi has 18 months left on his current deal has led to speculation about his long-term future, with Marca recently reporting the forward had turned down the chance to renew in the summer and was contemplating running down his contract. 

ESPN FC were told by Barca at the time that they remained confident of keeping hold of the 29-year-old and Mestre's most recent comments reinforce that view. 

Following a year which has seen Suarez, Neymar, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo renew with their respective clubs, Messi is tipped to become the highest-paid player in the world again if he signs a new contract with Barcelona.

On Sunday, Messi was one of four players given an early Christmas break -- along with Suarez, Neymar and Gerard Pique -- and he has already left Spain to spend the holidays in Argentina.

Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.

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