Bartomeu told Catalan television network TV3 that “I won’t get into any conflict with him. He’s our captain and the leader of our team.

“I couldn’t let him leave the club, he is the best player of all time and the team needs him. Having Messi is a guarantee of success.

“We have seen him do his talking on the pitch and we have moved on from the saga. We should congratulate ourselves for getting Messi to stay with us and for how he has behaved in the last few days. The best player in the world should stay at our home,” Bartomeu added, as reported by Goal

Messi, who has been at Barcelona for 20 years having joined the club at the age of 13, attempted to leave this summer by handing in a transfer request.

However, he ultimately decided to see out the final year of his contract at the Camp Nou after Barca contested a clause in his deal that would have allowed him to walk away for free.

The club’s refusal to recognize the break meant his only options were to find a suitor willing to pay his €700 million ($830 million) release clause, or take Barcelona to court in what could have proved to be a protracted legal battle.

Fans have not taken kindly to Bartomeu’s self-congratulation on the matter.

One wrote on Twitter that the president’s “arrogance/idiocy continues to amaze,” while another described it as “peak shamelessness.”

Bartomeu became president of Barcelona in January 2014.

The club have enjoyed plenty of success during his tenure, including four La Liga titles and Copas del Rey apiece, as well as one UEFA Champions League trophy, but there has been a growing feeling in recent years that Messi has been papering over some increasingly large cracks.

After the sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee in 2017, the club attempted to replace him with the signings of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele, both of whom have struggled at the Camp Nou.

The club has become increasingly less competitive in the Champions League, too.

In 2018 Barca were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Roma having taken a 4-1 lead in the first leg, while last year Liverpool overturned a 3-0 first-leg deficit against them in the semi-final.

In August, Barca were humiliated 8-2 in the single-leg quarter-final by Bayern Munich.

As a result of Barcelona’s increasing struggles, club members collected more than 20,000 signatures in a petition for a vote of no confidence in Bartomeu, which could see his presidency terminated in the coming weeks rather than in next year’s elections.

In the meantime, the 57-year-old is continuing business as usual.

“The board and I will keep working to ensure we have the most competitive team possible,” he said. “We will speak again after validating the votes but right now no-one wants to quit. The club won’t stop and we will keep working, we have lots of issues to sort out.”

As things stand, Barca look set to lose Messi for free at the end of the season, unless they can tie him down on a new contract in the meantime.

Given the fractious relationship between Messi and the powers that be at the Camp Nou that seems highly unlikely, particularly if Bartomeu manages to survive the vote.

Although Messi isn’t quite at the peak of his powers anymore and will be 34 at the end of next season, it will be a damning indictment of Bartomeu’s presidency if he departs the club – where he had stated his intention to retire – in such a fashion.

The Argentinian has plundered an astonishing 634 goals and 285 assists from 731 games for Barcelona, helping deliver 33 honors in that time.

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