• Josep Maria Bartomeu insists Lionel Messi will not leave Barcelona in 2021
  • Bartomeu claims Messi's retirement will take place in three to four years 
  • Bartomeu also plans to extend Marc-Andre ter Stegen's contract with the club

Josep Maria Bartomeu is keeping his confidence that Lionel Messi will not leave Camp Nou in 2021. As he stays adamant about his claim, the Barcelona President has gone to set the timetable for the Argentine superstar’s retirement from the club.

"It's not just me who says it. Messi says it himself, that he wants to finish his professional playing career at Barcelona and it's the only club for him," Bartomeu claimed on beIN SPORTS, according to the Goal.

The 57-year-old executive predicts a swansong taking place in 2023 at the earliest for Messi, whom he considers as the greatest footballer of all time.

"I don't have any doubt that when he finishes his football career in three or four years that it will be here in Barcelona,” Bartomeu added. "Messi has it very clear. He's been here since he was a kid. He knows the colors and he's a part of the club's history.

"He's the best player in the world. Not just right now, but in the history of the game. He's in Barcelona and has made clear he wants to stay here."

Messi has spent more than half of his life playing for the Catalans and Bartomeu is counting on loyalty as the six-time Ballon d’Or winner approaches the twilight zone of his legendary career.

Messi’s dedication to the Blaugrana is unparalleled. But the reported chaos within the club triggered speculation that the Argentina international is bound for the exits in 2021.

It certainly did not help that the alleged dressing room feud translated to struggles on the pitch this year. Notably, Barca suffered a collapse in the La Liga restart, allowing arch-rivals Real Madrid to outrace and eventually capture the league title.

Bartomeu also spoke about Barca’s plan to keep goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, whose current deal with the club is set to expire in two years.

"Marc is an excellent player and person, he has always shown that as a goalkeeper," said Bartomeu.

"With the current situation with Covid-19, (Ter Stegen) said, 'Let's hope everything is calmer to talk about it in the future.' But his future is to renew with Barca. We have a goalkeeper for many years because he is young. When everything passes, we will talk with Marc to finalize his renewal."

Bartomeu has had his hands full with regards to Barcelona’s player movement. And as he shifts into a more youth-centered rebuild, Bartomeu is hoping for a promising future ahead at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi notched his 20th assist of the season in Barcelona's 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Lionel Messi notched his 20th assist of the season in Barcelona's 1-0 win over Real Valladolid on Saturday. AFP / CESAR MANSO