- Associated Press - Saturday, January 14, 2017

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) - Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says extending Lionel Messi’s contract is “essential” for the club and predicts negotiations will have “a happy ending.”

Messi’s current deal ends in 2018, and Bartomeu says he has been personally leading the talks to renew the contract of “the best player in history.”

He said on Saturday that Messi wants to stay with Barcelona and the club will do “everything needed” to keep the five-time world player of the year.

The 29-year-old Messi scored in Barcelona’s 5-0 rout of Las Palmas in the Spanish league on Saturday. It was his 13th goal in his last 12 club matches.

Barcelona on Friday dismissed one of its officials from an institutional-relations role after he said Messi would not be as good if he didn’t have great teammates.

The club recently renewed the contracts of forwards Luis Suarez and Neymar until June 2021.

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