Messi to end career at Barcelona after extending deal to 2021

Lionel Messi hopes to end his career at Barcelona after ending months of speculation on Saturday by signing a contract extension to 2021, sealing an agreement reached in July, the club announced.

Barca had said in the summer that Messi, 30, had committed his future to the club but the Argentine had not signed the new deal.

With his previous contract set to expire in 2018, Messi could have left Barca for free next summer had he not extended his deal.

“We have needed to do the signature for some time. It is done and I am happy to remain tied to the club,” Messi told Barca TV.

“I have always said I wanted to end my career here, it is my dream to finish at Barcelona and we are on the right track.”

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said the club needed to change the deal agreed in June to increase Messi’s buyout clause to 700 million euros ($835 million) and prevent the danger of a repeat of Neymar’s departure when Paris Saint-Germain payed the Brazilian’s 222 million-euro buyout clause in August.

“We agreed to sign a new deal with a buyout clause adjusted to the current transfer market,” said Bartomeu.

“The buyout clause is 700 million. It allows us to keep Leo Messi where he should be.”

Without Neymar, Messi’s role as a creator and goalscorer has increased in a Barca side that has unusually built its stunning start to the season on a defensive record of 13 clean sheets in 18 games.

“The departure of Ney has meant a change in the way we play,” Messi, who has 16 goals in 19 games this campaign, told Spanish sports daily Marca on Saturday, a day after picking up his fourth Golden Shoe as the top goalscorer in Europe last season.

“We lost a huge amount of attacking potential, but that has benefited us in a defensive sense. Now we are more solid in midfield, we have more structure and that has made us stronger defensively.”

Barca first announced an agreement with Messi back on July 5, but pressure has been mounting on Bartomeu to get Messi to put pen to paper after a turbulent summer for the Catalans.

Neymar’s departure sparked a crisis and Bartomeu was heavily criticised for failing to ward off PSG with a higher buyout clause and for a haphazard search for replacements in the final weeks of the transfer window.

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