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‘Messi belongs to Barca’ – Koeman hopes star will stay

Ronald Koeman has outlined his hope that Lionel Messi will sign a new contract at Barcelona and insists Paris Saint-Germain’s interest in the player has not affected the club’s preparations for their UCL tie.

Barcelona resume their Champions League campaign tomorrow evening with a huge clash against PSG, the two sides drawn together in arguably the pick of the competition’s last-16 encounters.

The game will feature the sub-plot of Messi’s long-term future with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner having entered the final months of his contract at the Camp Nou, having expressed a desire to leave the Spanish giants last summer.

Barcelona’s struggles and difficult financial situation have increased the possibility of Messi leaving Catalonia, with PSG and Manchester City having been speculated as the most likely destinations for the club’s all-time record goalscorer.

The former have been vocal in their pursuit of the 33-year-old with a number of club figures having talked up the prospect of Messi heading to Paris, though Koeman insists any attempts to destabilise his side ahead of the Champions League meeting between the duo have proven unsuccessful.

Koeman added that he remains hopeful that Messi – who has scored 19 goals in 28 appearances so far this season – will put pen to paper and extend his stay with the club where has spent his entire professional career to date.

“They haven’t managed to destabilise us. I don’t know whether that was their intention or not,” said the Barcelona manager at his pre-match press conference.

“But Messi belongs to Barca and I have a lot of hope he will stay here.”

Barcelona head into tomorrow’s meeting with PSG in fine form having won their past seven league fixtures in succession, Messi having scored twice during Saturday’s 5-1 thrashing of Alaves at the Camp Nou.

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