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Messi 'happy' at Barcelona, claims sporting director

ESPN staff
April 14, 2014 « Wenger targets perfect run-in | Test Wayin World Cup »
Lionel Messi has been far from his best in recent weeks © Getty Images
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Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta has denied that Lionel Messi is unhappy at the Nou Camp, despite cutting a sorry figure of late as his side suffered consecutive setbacks in the Champions League and La Liga.

Messi has not been at his best in recent weeks, with Barca crashing out of Europe to Atletico Madrid last Wednesday, and then slipping back to third place in the Primera Division title race with Saturday's shock 1-0 loss at Granada.

However, Zubizarreta told Catalan station TV3 that the Argentina captain was in a positive state of mind, and that talks about an extension to his current Camp Nou contract were progressing well.

"There is nothing wrong with [Messi]," the former Barca goalkeeper said. "He is happy with the club and with his team-mates. His problem is that he has spoiled us.

"He is happy, training well, physically fine. He knows that football sets you challenges every week. Talks on his new contract are going reasonably well."

Zubizarreta was more cautious when asked about the future of coach Gerardo Martino - who is widely reported to be leaving the club this summer - with AS claiming the club's board want Borussia Dortmund boss Juergen Klopp, or otherwise Germany coach Jogi Loew, as a replacement.

Zubizarreta would only say that Martino was going to fulfil his contract, which contains a release clause that can be triggered by either side at the end of the current campaign, while also recalling that a new coach taking over at Barcelona each summer had now become an annual occurrence.

"To fulfil his contract is to fulfill his contract," he continued. "[Martino] has said he will do that. [Pep Guardiola] told me he would not be staying in May. A year ago we began the season with a press conference with Tito [Vilanova] and the following day we did not have him. I am prepared for everything."

Zubizarreta also denied that he himself was heavily responsible for a situation where Barca's current squad - which looks especially light defensively after recent injuries to Victor Valdes, Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra - had been constructed poorly.

"In football, victory has many fathers," he said. "When you lose, one has to show your face. I was not able to sleep. From the point of view of results this is my worst moment as sporting director, but when I go nobody will be able to accuse me of not having worked.

"This team has a great present and will have a great future. I am fully convinced of that. We will fight [in La Liga] until the last minute of the last game. I firmly believe that. We are a combative team. We will not give up."

The loss to Granada leaves Barcelona four points behind Liga leaders Atletico with just five games left to play.

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