Messi will keep leading Barcelona, says club chief

By AFP, Madrid

Lionel Messi will continue to be Barcelona's leading light despite the Argentine superstar suffering a stream of criticism in recent weeks, the Spanish team's president said Saturday. Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted that Messi should not have been singled out for blame as Barcelona's season has slowly unravelled in recent weeks. "I think people are being unfair to Leo Messi," Bartomeu told Spanish TV3. "He has led us to so many wins in recent years. He has led the team, and done so very well and we have no doubt that he will continue to lead the club into the future. "He's a young player, the best in the world and we have every faith in him." Messi came in for flak after Barcelona were eliminated in the Champions League quarter-finals by Atletico Madrid, lost 1-0 to Getafe and then slipped to a 2-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the final of the Copa del Rey. But Bartomeu said that the club would have no hesitation in handing Messi a new deal. "He has a contract until 2018 but we want to make him an offer because we need to adapt to the current situation in football," said the president.