FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi.
FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. Manu Fernandez

Barca wants to give Messi the world

FOOTBALL: Not only will Barcelona aggressively pursue signing Lionel Messi to a contract extension, the club is also willing to make the superstar the highest-paid player in the world.

Messi's current contract with Barcelona expires in 2018, and rumours have circulated that the 29-year-old will look to return to his boyhood club, Newell's Old Boys, after he is done with Barcelona.

But club president Josep Maria Bartomeu said he expected Messi would extend his contract - and Barcelona would do everything it could to make sure of it.

"There are no doubts that sooner or later we will close (Messi's) renewal,” Bartomeu said.

"I hope that he ends his sporting career here and after that I'm sure he will remain linked to the club.

"He is without doubt the best player in the history of the game and we will make a huge effort to renew his contract.”

Though Bartomeu declined to get specific on the value of that contract renewal, he suggested Barcelona is willing to make Messi the best-paid player in the sport.

"I don't want to talk about numbers really,” he said.

"If he's the best player in the world, though, then he should be the best player in the world in all aspects, even economically.

"That's all I will say on numbers.”

There's been a rush of stars who have signed new deals lately, including perennial rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who recently signed with Real Madrid for a figure reported to be about $450,000 per week.

Many consider Messi the best player in the world, but with a base salary reportedly just north of $300,000 per week, there is room for a big pay raise.

However, making him the top-paid player now means competing with Chinese clubs that are throwing around massive amounts of money.

According to new reports, Carlos Tevez will soon become the best-paid soccer player in the world when he leaves Boca Juniors for Shanghai Shenhua.

The Chinese club will reportedly pay him more than $1.05 million per week, a stunning new high in the sport.

Bartomeu said negotiations with Messi would begin seriously next year.

"Messi is a Barcelona player, he feels Barca in his heart,” he said.

"I need to sit down and talk with him and his representatives (in the New Year) and I think he's convinced he's in the best place. We are, too.”