Lionel Messi has put together one of the finest runs of form during his distinguished career despite the early season struggles at Barcelona to force Ronald Koeman’s side into title contention.
The Catalan giants smashed six past Real Sociedad on Sunday to go within four points of top spot, with Messi on hand to score twice and create another for Sergino Dest.
Those contributions have taken the 33-year-old’s tally to 23 goals and eight assists across 26 games, which includes 15 goals and 7 assists across 12 outings so far in 2021.
Gary Lineker tweeted on Sunday: “In the 12 games he’s played so far in 2021, Messi has scored 15 goals and made 7 assists. He’s not of this planet.”
Messi has been part of a huge improvement in form at Barcelona despite their Champions League exit at the hands of PSG – and he could now stay beyond the summer.
The Argentina skipper handed in a transfer request last year while criticising the direction of the club, but his stance could have changed following the arrival of Joan Laporta for a second spell as president.
Laporta said last week: "I am here to make decisions, like convincing Leo to carry on, taking advantage of the fact that he is here. He knows that.
"You know the affection I hold for you and we will do whatever it takes to keep you here. You know you cannot leave, Leo.
"We will not be able to do it alone. As our anthem says, we are strong all together. More so in these most difficult times. We know how to do it.
"When the pandemic is over our revenue will return. That will be fixed. There will be strong leadership, because I am well-accompanied. We will make decisions.
“To defend the club you have to live and breathe it and we do that as much as possible."
Koeman has also been outspoken in his desire for Messi to stay, telling the Athletic in February: “It was a difficult time because he's still the best player, but he was angry.
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“He was not happy that he was in a team who lost 8-2 against Bayern Munich.
“He wanted to leave. I said to the club, 'okay, it's not my problem. It's a problem between the club and Leo Messi. And you have to resolve that'.
“Finally the club said, 'okay, we don't make a transfer for him. He needs to stay'. It was a difficult time for Leo but he finally accepted [the situation].
“I spoke to him in his house before we started the season, and I made plans with him and he was really enthusiastic. Finally, little by little, he accepted that situation.”
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