Lionel Messi is ‘most likely’ to leave Barcelona in the summer, says presidential candidate Agusti Benedito.
Messi has been linked with Manchester City and Paris-Saint Germain after entering the final six months of his contract at the Nou Camp.
The Argentine superstar is now free to talk to clubs outside Spain and can sign a pre-contract agreement over a free transfer in the summer.
In a recent interview, he said he had always wanted to experience playing in another league, and mentioned the United States.
And Benedito, who hopes to be elected as the successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu later this month, admits the chances of Barca retaining Messi are not good.
“Keeping Messi would be the best news for the club but I am not very optimistic,” he told ESPN .
“Given the club’s situation, I think it’s really important that he stays at Barca, with the understanding that he understands the next two years we have in front us [could be difficult].
“He’s been here for 20 years – he’s a Barcelona fan and I think he’s sensitive to the situation.
“He has given us so much in the same way that Barcelona have given him a lot and it’s time for us all to roll up our sleeves.
“I would have liked him to say in his interview the other week that his desire is to stay at the club, but he didn’t and now we have to wait and see. The truth is I am pessimistic.
“Remember that in August he said he wanted to leave after 20 years and now he’s still not cleared up what he wants to do.
“The most likely outcome I see is that he leaves us in the summer.”
Messi has been tipped to reunite with former Barca boss Pep Guardiola at Manchester City. A move to the Etihad would also give him a pathway to play in the US through sister club New York City FC.