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Delaney: Raiola XI vs. Mendes XI

FC United
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Lionel Messi unlikely to leave Barcelona, says Gerardo Martino

Argentina coach Gerardo Martino feels it would be "difficult" for Lionel Messi to leave Barcelona, while saying the most important thing is that Messi enjoys his football wherever he is playing.

Barca talisman Messi re-opened the debate over his future this week when he suggested to Argentine newspaper Ole that he could leave the Camp Nou next summer, in quotes which intimated he felt he was being pushed away by some inside the Catalan club.

The news has been met with huge concern among Blaugrana fans and pundits even though Messi, 27, signed a new long-term contract at Barca just last summer.

Mundo Deportivo's front cover Wednesday morning read "Messi warning," while fellow Catalan daily Sport went for "Messi worry."

Speaking after Argentina's 1-0 friendly defeat to Portugal at Old Trafford on Tuesday night, the albiceleste manager spoke warily when asked if he could see the four-time Ballon d'Or winner moving to another club.

"This is a very personal opinion," Martino was quoted as saying in Marca. "When you see the connection he has with Barcelona, thinking about it from outside and without having spoken about it with him, [Messi leaving] seems difficult to me. When you see the options there are in the world, big teams where he could fit in perfectly, I think it is possible. What is definite is that I believe he should be where he is happy to play football."

Messi's relationship with the Barca board has often appeared particularly strained through recent times, with the player and his family reportedly feeling a lack of support from the hierarchy at the club, and the player releasing a statement even after signing his new contract last summer suggesting he was still not 100 percent happy to be staying.

Martino, who had a difficult 12 months in charge of Barca and Messi last season, denied that he had picked up the sensation that there was a breach between club and player, saying that media reports about the situation were often motivated by different points of view or agendas.

"No, no," he said. "The truth is I have no opinion about this as I have never spoken about it with him. Then everyone can make their own interpretation of what he would like -- from Madrid one view, from Barcelona another... I saw plenty of this type of story last year."

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