Ten Cate claims Messi promise

Speculation is rife that Messi wants to leave Barcelona because of a fractured relationship with current head coach Luis Enrique.

The Spanish press reported this week of the increased friction in the Barca changing room between Enrique and some of his players, including Argentina star Messi.

Daily sports newspaper Marca claimed that many players were unhappy with the former Barca player’s tactical and coaching methods since he replaced Gerardo Martino as coach in the summer.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has denied reports that Messi is considering leaving the club he joined at the age of 13.

“I see Leo Messi very happy at Barcelona,” Bartomeu said. “I see how he plays, his involvement, his hunger to win.

“They are all extremely motivated, not just Messi. Messi is our leader and we want him to continue to be our leader.”

But Ten Cate claims that Messi is far from happy, telling De Telegraaf: “As far as I know, these problems all started about two years ago. Messi is only still at Barcelona because he promised Tito Vilanova on his deathbed.

“But I think a transfer would be in everybody’s best interest. Lionel has been at Barcelona for quite a while and he needs a new challenge. He’s still worth a lot of money now but his value will only go down from here on.

“I really want to be supportive because he has been on another level for ten years but I’m not sure he will get back to his best.

“It isn’t normal to shine for ten years like he has done. Most of the big names can only keep it up for seven or eight years and, to be honest, he wasn’t at his best either last season, even if his statistics were still great.”

Messi was a very close friend of former coach Vilanova, who lost his battle with cancer in April.

His tribute read: “I will always have inside of me the things I shared with him and the things we lived through together, which I can never forget.”