BARCELONA: Lionel Messi still wishes to leave Barcelona after meeting new coach Ronald Koeman, according to reports in the Spanish media on Friday, as all four sports newspapers dedicated their front covers to the Argentine's uncertain future.
Marca, Spain's biggest selling daily, said the Argentine told Koeman that he was more likely to leave the club than to stay, while AS declared on its cover 'Messi sees himself leaving'.
Barcelona-based daily Mundo Deportivo said Messi 'does not see his future clearly', but stressed that the captain has little hope of leaving the club immediately due to his 700-million-euro (US$827.05 million) release clause.
Messi, who joined Barca aged 13, has scored a record 634 goals for the Catalans in 730 matches and is also the club's most decorated player with 33 trophies.
He is 37 games away from matching Xavi Hernandez as the club's all-time appearance maker.
But the 33-year-old is into the final year of his contract at the club and doubts about his future have grown since last week's historic 8-2 thrashing to Bayern Munich to exit the Champions League, which Barca have failed to win since 2015.
Sport, also based in Barcelona, talked of a 'first summit meeting' between the captain and coach, adding that Messi interrupted his holidays in order to meet with Koeman.
The Dutch coach said in his presentation on Wednesday that he wanted Messi to stay, although he did not show as much reverence to the player as some of his predecessors.
Koeman said he "did not know if he needed to convince Messi to stay" although he did call the Argentine the best player in the world and said he would be happy if he chose to remain at Barca.
With his contract running out next June, the six-times world player of the year is free to negotiate with other clubs from next January.
Yet even without a transfer fee, Messi's colossal salary, reported to be the highest in world football, means very few clubs would be able to afford him.
A study by French newspaper L'Equipe earlier this year said Messi earns 8.2 million euros per month from Barca, way more than Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo and Paris St Germain striker Neymar, who earn 4.5 million and 3 million respectively.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)