Barcelona, Spain — Lionel Messi will play out the best remaining years of his trophy-rich career at Barcelona.
The Spanish club said Wednesday that Messi had agreed a three-year contract extension that will keep him at the club through the 2020-21 season. By then, Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer will be 34 years old and finishing his 17th season with the club.
Barcelona announced that Messi will sign a new deal “in the coming weeks” that will run through June 30, 2021.
“This is a message that the union between Messi and Barca will continue until the end of his career,” Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu said.
The contract extension comes as no surprise. Messi has repeatedly said he wanted to play the best years of his career at Barcelona, before perhaps making a return to his native Argentina that he left at 13 years old to come to Barcelona’s famed La Masia training academy.
But with his current contract set to expire at the end of the upcoming 2017-18 season, the club’s board, players, fans and new coach Ernesto Valverde can all breathe easier knowing their star is staying put.
Barcelona released a statement calling Messi “the best player in history, who has played his full professional career at Barca and has led the team to an era of extraordinary success, the likes of which has never been seen in world football.”
Since making his debut with Barcelona’s first team at age 17 in 2004, Messi has established himself as one of the best to ever play the game. He has won the FIFA world player of the year five times, and has become the Spanish league’s all-time leading scorer.
Messi, who turned 30 last month, has scored a club record 507 goals in 583 matches. His honors with the club include four Champions League trophies, eight Spanish league titles and five Copa del Rey titles.
The announcement comes five days after Messi married his childhood sweetheart Antonella Roccuzzo, mother of their two sons.
Messi will now be expected to again lead a Barcelona side that has been eclipsed for the first time in more than a decade by fierce rival Real Madrid, which won both the Champions League and La Liga titles last season.
“We have our objectives, and with Messi, they will be easier to achieve,” Bartomeu said. “Leo wants to keep making history with us and we are convinced that he will be here for many years to come.”
Saief replaced on U.S. Gold Cup roster
Midfielder Kenny Saief will miss the CONCACAF Gold Cup because of a groin injury and will be replaced by Chris Pontius on the U.S. roster.
A 23-year-old midfielder with Gent in Belgium, Saief made his U.S. debut in Saturday’s 2-1 exhibition win over Ghana, entering in the 71st minute. He made two appearances for Israel, then was given permission by FIFA to switch affiliation to the U.S.
Saief was training with the Americans on Monday in Nashville, Tennessee, ahead of Saturday’s opener against Panama. The U.S. Soccer Federation said Wednesday that Saief’s injury occurred during the European season and got worse.
Pontius, who plays for Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, made his first two U.S. appearances last winter against Serbia and Jamaica.
Russia TV deal still far off
Russia says it is far from reaching a deal with FIFA on TV broadcast rights for next year’s World Cup.
With the tournament a year away, there is still no agreement in place to avoid the embarrassing situation of games not being shown in the host nation. FIFA usually signs deals several years before major events.
Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko says FIFA wants $110 million from Russian TV channels, but they can only afford to pay $38-$40 million.