Amid ongoing contracts talks between the two parties, Barcelona secretary Toni Freixa says that the Catalan club value Andres Iniesta as the second best player in the world.
Iniesta’s camp last week reportedly rejected an initial extension to the Spain international’s current deal at the Camp Nou, which ends in June 2014. However further talks are expected as the blaugrana look to tie up the midfielder much further into the future.
Freixa was speaking as he presented record projected club revenues of €509 million for the 2013-14 season. At that event he told reporters that Barca had no intention of letting Iniesta leave.
"If it were not for Messi, [Iniesta] would be the best player in the world," Freixa said. "We value him a lot and he is essential for our project. We want to put him in the place he deserves, just behind Messi."
La Masia graduate Iniesta, 29, made his first-team debut for Barca at Club Bruges in the Champions League in October 2002, and has since played over 300 first-team games while winning six La Liga trophies, three Champions Leagues, two World Club Cups and two Copa del Rey -- as well as the last two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup with Spain.
Iniesta told Catalan station TV3 last weekend that you could never be sure about anything in future, but he expected the club to match his desire to agree a new deal.
"I do not know what will happen in the future, I like not to look too far ahead, but my feeling has always been to finish my career at Barca," Iniesta said. "For me that would be very nice. We will see… I have two years of my contract left. We hope that everything will go on a good path, that is my desire and I hope the people at the club want the same."
Established Barca stars including Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Sergio Busquets have all agreed new long-term deals in the last 12 months. AS claimed this week that Messi, whose latest €12.5 million-a-year contract was signed just last February, is looking for a further pay-rise in the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo being given a €20 million-per-annum salary by Real Madrid.