Messi ‘Especially Fond’ of Barcelona’s Newest Star: Report

Lionel Messi

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Barcelona’s newest star Ilaix Moriba has made a big impact at the club in the 2020-21 season and appears to have impressed captain Lionel Messi already.

The Argentine is “especially fond” of the 18-year-old, while the youngster is also said to have “already made an impression on the dressing room,” according to ESPN’s Moises Llorens and Sam Marsden.

Moriba only made his debut in January but scored his first La Liga goal in the 2-0 win over Osasuna on Saturday. The teenager has now featured in all of Barca’s last four games and appears to have jumped above Riqui Puig and Miralem Pjanic in the pecking order.

ESPN also reported that Barca is keen to tie the youngster down to a new long-term contract. Moriba’s current deal expires in 2022, but Barca wants to extend his deal and increase his €100 million ($120m) buyout clause.

Moriba, who has been at Barca since he was seven, wants to stay but the clause is proving to be a stumbling block. The midfielder’s camp “are reluctant for it to be raised above €150m,” while Barca wants to increase it to help prevent other clubs swooping in and signing the talented teen.

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Moriba Makes Barca Forget About Wijnaldum

The emergence of Moriba this season has been a real positive in Barca’s season. The midfielder is one of several youngsters who are making a real impact under Ronald Koeman in the first team.

Pedri, Sergino Dest, Oscar Mingueza, and Ronald Araujo have all featured regularly, while Ansu Fati is currently out injured after knee surgery but remains a key part of the squad.

The youngsters mean Barca’s future looks bright on the pitch and will also affect the club’s transfer deals. Moriba’s emergence has seen Barca end their interest in Liverpool midfielder Gini Wijnaldum, according to Sport’s Jordi Gil.


Can Barca Youngsters Convince Messi?

Barcelona’s youth may also play a role in Lionel Messi’s future. The captain is out of contract at the end of the season and able to leave for free. Messi has said he will wait until the end of the campaign to make any decisions about where he plays next season.

Koeman spoke about Messi’s future in the wake of the club’s Champions League exit on Wednesday and said the 33-year-old can be in no doubt that Barcelona is building a competitive team, as reported by the AFP’s Tom Allnutt.

“Leo has seen for quite some time that the team is improving thanks to all the changes we’ve made,” he said. “Particularly, we have young players of great quality. We’ve got a great future ahead. Leo can’t have any doubts about what the future holds for this team,”

Yet speculation continues to rage about Messi. Journalist Marcelo Bechler, who was the first to break the news of Neymar’s transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, has reported the French champions remains “confident” they can land Messi and believe they have a “better project” to offer Messi than Barcelona.

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