Soccer-Laporta certain Messi will stay after leading Barca to Cup glory


Soccer Football - Joan Laporta, inauguration ceremony of the presidency of FC Barcelona - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - March 17, 2021 New Barcelona president Joan Laporta during the inauguration ceremony REUTERS/Albert Gea

SEVILLE (Reuters) - Barcelona president Joan Laporta said he was very confident Lionel Messi would choose to stay at the club after the Argentine delivered a vintage performance in Saturday's 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final.

Messi scored a sensational individual goal midway through the second half after strikes from Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong had put the Catalans in charge.

He then adorned an outstanding display by netting again before lifting the trophy for the seventh time in his career, his first since becoming club captain in 2018.

Barca's all-time top scorer and most decorated player has only two months left on his contract and tried to leave last year after falling out with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

But Laporta, who presided over Messi's rise to stardom in his first stint as Barca chief and was elected for a second time last month, said he felt the captain would stay at the club where he has spent his career since joining aged 13.

"Leo is the best player in the world and has a very strong bond with the club. I'm convinced he wants to stay and we'll do everything in our hands to make sure he does," Laporta told reporters.

"Today he could see he is backed up by a great team who are capable of playing beautiful football."

Messi gave no hints about his future but commended his side for overcoming a terrible start to their season to go and win the Copa and rejoin a thrilling three-way race for the La Liga title alongside leaders Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

"We struggled to get going in the first half of the season and lost a lot of points by being naive but then we got a lot stronger, started playing really well and got ourselves back into the fight," he said.

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman paid tribute to Messi and also gave a special mention to Dutch midfielder De Jong, who got two assists in addition to scoring the second goal.

"Leo has spent years demonstrating that he is the best player in the world and he was very effective today although we should also highlight what Frenkie did as well as the rest of the team," he added.

"We played at an extraordinary level tonight and we deserve this Cup."

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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