Barcelona extends contracts of Messi, Xavi, captain Puyol

Barcelona extends contracts of Messi, Xavi, captain Puyol

MADRID - Agence France-Presse
Barcelona extends contracts of Messi, Xavi, captain Puyol

Superstar Lionel Messi has renewed his contract with Barcelona until 2018, on a day when the Catalan giants also extend the contracts of captain Carles Puyol and midfield maestro Xavi. EPA photo

Barcelona’s star Argentinian striker Lionel Messi has pledged to stay with the Spanish giants until June 2018 by renewing his contract, the club said yesterday.

Currently leading the league by a huge nine points, Barcelona also said that it had agreed contract renewals with Spain internationals and longtime club stalwarts Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez.

A statement from the club said that an agreement had been agreed with Messi, 25, whose current contract expires in 2016, and that he would sign his new deal “in the coming weeks”.

Veteran defender and captain Puyol, 34, and midfielder Xavi, 32 - one of the heroes of Spain’s Euro victory this year - have each signed up to stay until 2016. Puyol’s current contract expires next year and Xavi’s in 2014.

“This news means that FC Barcelona has secured its ties with three of its most important players,” the club said in its statement.

Barcelona is 13 points clear of its fierce rival, titleholder Real Madrid, at the top of the Spanish league, and nine points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, whom it beat 4-1 last weekend.
The Catalan giants are unbeaten in the league this season with 15 wins and one draw.

‘Barcelona extends a successful project’

“It is very satisfying for the board to extend a successful project by renewing Xavi, Puyol and Messi,” a spokesman for the club’s management Toni Freixa told a news conference.

“They are three basic pillars of the best Barcelona team in history. It was very necessary to keep our main elements tied to the club.” Puyol, who like Messi and Xavi is a graduate of Barça’s cherished youth training academy La Masia, has soldiered on despite injuries that have forced him to spend weeks on the bench this year.

He missed taking part in Spain’s Euro 2012 victory for treatment to his right knee and later fractured his cheekbone at the start of this league season.

Messi, who has been at the club since 2004, is the top scorer in the league with 25 goals so far this season, ahead of Atletico’s Radamel Falcao who has 17 and Real’s Cristiano Ronaldo on 14.

The Argentine recently broke Gerd Müller’s 40-year record for the most goals in a calendar year.
Müller scored 85 in 1972 and Messi has scored 90 so far this year.

Messi is also Barça’s highest ever scorer, having broken Cesar Rodriquez’s record from the 1950s.
The Argentinian is in the running for a fourth Ballon D’Or, World Player of the Year award this year, alongside his Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta and his La Liga rival Cristiano Ronaldo. The winner will be announced on Jan. 7, 2013.

If Messi carries it off, he will be the only player to win four Ballon D’Or awards, exceeding the triples of Barcelona’s Dutch hero Johann Cruyff, France’s Michel Platini and another Dutchman, Marco Van Basten.