Lionel Messi has reiterated that he wants to end his career at Barcelona, insisting he hopes to be at Camp Nou “forever.”
The four-time FIFA Ballon d’Or winner has been outshone by Cristiano Ronaldo so far this season, having netted 16 goals in 21 games while the Portuguese’s has scored 34 in 25.
Injuries have been responsible for Messi’s failure to hit his previously stellar heights and a thigh problem has ruled him out for the rest of 2013, with some suggesting he is no longer indispensable to Barca.
Club legend Johan Cruyff claimed in the summer that it was feasible the Argentina star could be sold after the arrival of Neymar and the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with money-no-object moves for Messi before.
But Messi is adamant his long-term future is at Camp Nou.
“My intention is to stay at Barcelona forever,” he said as he picked up his 2012-13 European Golden Boot Award. “I appreciate it, if it is true what is said, that there are people interested. It makes you proud that people say these things, but my life is in Barcelona.”
Meanwhile, Messi says Barcelona are well placed to come into their best form next spring when this season’s major trophies will be decided.
Barca have not always been at their fluid best so far under new coach Gerardo Martino, but are nevertheless three points clear at the head of the La Liga standings, and have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League with two fixtures still to play.
The Catalan side are also currently hampered by injuries -- with goalkeeper Victor Valdes and Messi himself out until the New Year, and other key players including Xavi Hernandez, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Dani Alves currently recovering from various problems.
But Messi said: “We have started on the right path. After the holidays comes the most important part, when competitions are decided and a small detail can leave you out of one of them. We are preparing well for what is coming and to achieve important things at the end of the season.”
Barcelona’s likely challengers for this season’s Champions League trophy will be La Liga rivals Real Madrid and last year’s winners Bayern Munich, Messi said.
“Real Madrid and Bayern, although there are also many other teams,” he said. “The Champions League is very competitive, and difficult to win.”