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Messi agrees new Barcelona deal

ESPN staff
December 18, 2012 « Dodson chasing pigs & squirrels to prepare for Johnson | Chartbeat test »

Lionel Messi has pledged his immediate future to Barcelona by agreeing a deal that ties him to the club until 2018.

The Argentina superstar has always maintained his desire is to spend his entire career with the Catalan club and shortly after becoming the greatest goalscorer in a calendar year, he has agreed a new deal.

Messi has been joined in committing to Barcelona by Xavi and Carles Puyol who have agreed deals to 2016.

Barca announced the news via their club website on Tuesday morning.

"FC Barcelona can announce that it has reached agreements with Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez and Leo Messi for the renewal of their respective contracts," the official statement read. "This news means that FC Barcelona has secured its ties with three of its most important players. Over the course of the next few weeks, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez and Leo Messi will all be signing their respective new contracts."

The news came after club captain Puyol told reporters on Monday that ideally he would like to play until he was 40, as long as he could keep contributing to the cause.

"I want to continue playing, but I do not want to be a passenger," he said. "The moment I do not feel okay, I will stop, regardless of my contract."

Puyol said that his contract negotiations had been put on hold recently while he concentrated on getting back in shape to help the team after a suffering a string of injuries in recent months.

"I was concentrating on getting back to fitness," he said. "It was a difficult time, but you have to learn from these experiences and they make you stronger. I feel fine now. The moment I stop enjoying it, I will stop playing".

Puyol played all 90 minutes in Sunday evening's 4-1 win over Atletico Madrid, which stretched Barca's lead in the table to nine points over Atletico and 13 over Real Madrid. 'Tarzan' said he still considered Jose Mourinho's Madrid a dangerous challenger for the title.

"If there is one team who never give up, it is Real Madrid," he said. "They have shown that in other seasons. We cannot become complacent, we still have to go to the Bernabeu. If you were told about 13 points at the start of the season, you would not believe it. But our numbers are very good and have been won on the field."

When asked about his plans for his career once he eventually hangs up his boots, Puyol joked that he would not become Barca club president and his fellow centre-half Gerard Pique had his eyes on that job.

"I do not want to be Barca president, like Pique," he said. "I will let him have that job, as he is my friend."

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