Lionel Messi is approaching decision time on his Barcelona future but has been tipped to sign a new contract in what would be a bitter transfer blow to Manchester City.
It has been seven months since the Argentine forward slapped in a transfer request and made it clear he wanted to leave the Nou Camp, with City seemingly leading the race.
But since then Messi seems to have relaxed his stance somewhat, with recent developments both on and off the field adding to the belief he will commit to his current club beyond the end of the season – a feeling shared by Barca legend Rivaldo.
“Messi looks much more connected and happier since Juan Laporta’s arrival – a president he knows well.
“For that reason, I’m starting to believe more and more that Messi might reach an agreement with the new board and sign a new contract to stay at the club for a few more years.
“Messi had a confidence boost with the new president election – someone he has a good connection with – raising the chances of him considering to stay for a bit longer.”
The installation of Laporta for a second spell as president has brought about a renewed optimism, but the club’s form on the field has been the real driver, with Barca now just four points behind La Liga leader Atletico Madrid with a Cope del Rey final also to come.
Key to that has been Messi, who has netted 12 goals in his last 10 games, with Barca’s only defeat in that time against PSG in the Champions League.
Messi, 33, was adamant he would only stay put at the club if they could match his ambitions to win Europe’s top club competition again, and while they suffered an early exit this season, Rivaldo is convinced Ronald Koeman is building a promising new era for the Blaugrana.
“He is doing some very solid work during a tough moment for the club, so I think the least he deserves is to have more time to put it all together,” Rivaldo said.
“He appears to have a good relationship with Messi and is also revealing some new young and talented players proving to be a pivotal piece of the ‘New Barcelona’ that seems to be under construction.
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“His mark is also visible on the Spanish national team with the recent call up of Pedri and others could follow his steps. The confidence that Koeman installs in the youngsters is crucial and Luis Enrique is taking advantage by bringing them into the national teams.
“Another example of Koeman’s qualities was seen lately when he decided to change his playing system since the team wasn’t playing so well. And he actually found a very interesting 3-4-3 formation that allowed Barcelona to start playing some great football and more importantly, winning matches.
“It was brilliant the way they beat Real Sociedad last Sunday. To beat one of the best teams in La Liga away from home by 1-6 is impressive.”