Erling Haaland continues to be linked with a move to Barcelona, but head coach Ronald Koeman has insisted the final decision over a move for the Borussia Dortmund striker will be made by president Joan Laporta.

Barca are one of a number of elite teams to have been credited with an interest in the Norway international, who has scored 49 goals in 50 appearances for Dortmund in his 15 months at the club.

Talk of a possible switch to Camp Nou intensified on Thursday when Haaland's agent Mino Raiola and father Alf-Inge were pictured in Barcelona reportedly on their way to a meeting with Laporta.

The pair were later spotted in Madrid and reports from Spain suggest talks are planned with a number of English clubs next week for arguably the most in-demand player in world football.

Koeman confirmed at a pre-match news conference on Sunday that he has held talks with recently elected president Laporta over possible targets, but he was unwilling to discuss any specific interest in Haaland.

"We discuss future plans, but the decision is made by the president," Koeman said ahead of Monday's clash with Real Valladolid.

"Everyone, including the president, is working to improve the team knowing the club's economic situation, which is not the best. 

"They have shown me from day one that they will try to improve this situation and, in terms of signings, everything depends on the possibilities we have. 

"It is normal to talk in the last part of the season about the next one. Now I am not interested in the names that come out, we have to be focused on the final games we have left to play."

Haaland has 21 goals in 22 Bundesliga games this term, adding another 10 from six matches in the Champions League, a competition in which he tops the scoring charts.

Asked again if a move for Haaland has already been discussed with Laporta, Koeman said: "I am not going to talk about players who are not ours

"We have used the break to have meetings, to talk about this season, about the next one - this happens in all the clubs in the world."

A move for Haaland could be directly linked to Lionel Messi's Camp Nou future, with the superstar forward set to be out of contract at the end of the season.

The club's all-time leading goalscorer may be persuaded to sign a new deal if Barca can signal their ambitions by bringing in exciting talent Haaland.

"Messi's contract is an important matter and we are doing our all so that he stays at the club for many more years," Koeman said.

"But we are talking about tomorrow's game, which has all our thoughts right now, not next season. The future is down to the president and his team. As a coach, and as players, all we can do is focus on each game."

The 20 goals Haaland has scored in 14 games since making his Champions League debut for Salzburg in September 2019 compares to eight for Messi from the same number of outings.

Haaland's average of a goal every 53.95 minutes in Europe's elite club competition is the second best return of any player to have scored at least five times over that same timeframe, behind only Chelsea's Olivier Giroud (six goals in eight games for a return of 52.67).

Erling Haaland's agent Mino Raiola was pictured arriving in Barcelona on Thursday, but Borussia Dortmund director Michael Zorc insisted the club have "made our intentions clear" over the striker's future amid ongoing links with the LaLiga giants.

Barca are one of a number of elite teams to have been linked with the Norway international following a goal-laden 15-month spell with Dortmund that has seen him score 49 goals in 49 appearances.

Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City and Manchester United have also showed a reported interest in Haaland, who is believed to have a €75million release clause in his contract that comes into effect from 2022.

But talk of a move to Camp Nou at the end of this season intensified on Thursday after Spanish outlet Sport published a video showing Raiola and Haaland's father, Alf-Inge, emerging from an airport and being driven away in a private car.

It was reported that the driver is a member of Joan Laporta's staff, suggesting Raiola and Haaland senior were on the way to a meeting with the recently elected Barca president.

However, when questioned about the alleged meeting, Dortmund chief Zorc said he is "relaxed" about the 20-year-old's future and joked his entourage may have jetted to Catalonia for another reason entirely.

"I spoke to Mino Raiola yesterday. We've made our intentions very clear," he told Sport1

"There's no problem if Alfie and Mino want to sunbath on the Mediterranean Sea. I am relaxed because I know what we want!"

Speaking last week, Raiola suggested he was too cautious when moving star client Haaland from Salzburg to Dortmund in January 2020 and hinted the in-demand striker may seek pastures new in the next window.

Haaland has scored 21 goals in as many Bundesliga games this term, adding another 10 from six games in the Champions League, a competition in which he tops the scoring charts.

Ronald Koeman will head into important talks with new Barcelona president Joan Laporta during the international break.

Head coach Koeman declared that was the plan as he spoke on Saturday, a day ahead of the trip to face Real Sociedad in LaLiga.

The Dutchman's future was a major topic of discussion during the club elections, but there are a range of major issues that must be resolved between the dressing room and the boardroom.

Not least among those is the future of captain and record goalscorer Lionel Messi, whose contract expires in June, while the club's transfer budget and ambitions are also vital matters ahead of the close season.

Koeman was appointed last August on a two-year contract, and a failure to get past the last-16 stage in the Champions League was a major disappointment.

Barcelona remain in the hunt for domestic league and cup glory, though, and Koeman is keen to hear in the coming fortnight what Laporta is planning for the team's future.

Koeman said: "After tomorrow's game we have a break and we will have time to talk about the future of this team.

"We will take advantage of these two weeks to talk about players, signings and get to know each other. It is a time to be more together."

That was an answer given in response to the question of whether he was intending to meet with Laporta again, having already had brief talks.

Koeman said it was "important" to have an established figurehead at the club, after the reign of previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu dissolved amid considerable acrimony last October.

"It is reassuring to have someone who is the face of the club, but nothing changes for our work," Koeman said.

Laporta this week backed Koeman, saying: "Ronald, you have our confidence. We want to go back to that success story between Barca and the Champions League. This year we have to go for LaLiga and for the cup."

That simply confirmed what Koeman had already been told privately in the wake of the Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain.

"We must continue in this way so that the results reinforce it. Hopefully it will last for a long time."

The impending talks mean Sunday's clash at Anoeta is one that may take on extra significance for Koeman.

Should Barcelona win, that would ramp up pressure on leaders Atletico Madrid, who face Deportivo Alaves on Sunday. The closer they get to Atletico, the more impressive Koeman's leadership appears.

Barcelona are unbeaten in 17 games in LaLiga and have crept from mid-table to the point where they are just four points behind Atletico.

Koeman may privately ask Laporta about the prospects of signing Erling Haaland, Borussia Dortmund's free-scoring Norway international who has also been linked to Real Madrid.

But Haaland is not a player that Koeman is prepared to discuss in public, no matter how the question is put to him.

When asked on Saturday how he rated Haaland, and whether he was a player he would like to coach, Koeman pulled down the shutters, saying: "Out of respect I will not talk about a player who is not ours."

Joan Laporta has promised to do everything he can to persuade Lionel Messi to stay at Barcelona, as well as offering an assurance to head coach Ronald Koeman amid speculation over his future.

Laporta was officially unveiled as Barca's new president at a ceremony on Wednesday, having seen off competition from Victor Font and Toni Freixa during an election staged on March 7. 

It will be his second time in the role at Camp Nou; his previous stint from 2003 and 2010 saw the club win LaLiga on four occasions, as well as the Champions League twice.  

However, he returns now with Barcelona dealing with financial issues off the field and great uncertainty over the future of their best player, the talismanic Messi. 

The club's all-time leading scorer is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, though Laporta is determined to retain the "best player in history".

"I'll do everything I can to try to convince Leo to stay," he said in a speech that covered a wide range of topics, including the importance of the club's academy system. 

"We will try because he's the best player in history and, sorry for telling you here, but you know how much I love you, and Barca also loves you." 

Messi has scored 27 goals in all competitions this season under Koeman, who has Barca in contention for the league title in Spain following a shaky start to his debut campaign in charge. 

They are also through to the Copa del Rey final – Athletic Bilbao will be their opponents on April 17 – but hopes of Champions League glory were dashed by PSG at the last-16 stage. 

Still, with the team on a 17-game unbeaten streak in LaLiga, Laporta made clear his confidence in Koeman, who – like Messi – was present inside the ground for the event. 

"Ronald, you have our confidence," he said. 

"We want to go back to that success story between Barca and the Champions League. This year we have to go for LaLiga and for the cup."

Laporta described Barca as an "engine for optimism" despite their current financial plight, something he will be prioritising at the start of his new reign. 

"The economic situation is a priority for us," Laporta announced. "We have the priority of making the club economically sustainable.  

"We have a shock plan for it. The situation does not scare us. The people who accompany us are not scared by these things. 

"If we have to make decisions in the interest of Barca, we will make them."

Ronald Koeman is not interested in media speculation about his own future at Barcelona as he waits to hold in-depth talks with new president Joan Laporta. 

Barca exited the Champions League in midweek, going out in the last 16 to Paris Saint-Germain, but still remain firmly in the hunt in LaLiga, having clawed their way back into the title race with a 16-game unbeaten run. 

The excellent domestic form has eased the pressure on Koeman somewhat, though a recent report in Spain suggested Julian Nagelsmann was being lined up to replace the Dutchman at Camp Nou. 

RB Leipzig boss Nageslmann, who has also been linked with Bayern Munich, made clear on Friday it would be disrespectful to discuss such matters, stating: "There are great coaches at all of these clubs and they have a contract, just as I do. It is not annoying me, nor is it flattering me." 

Likewise, Koeman's focus is on helping Barcelona continue to get better this season, rather than worrying about stories in the press. 

"It was a very good reaction, but I don't have to answer the names of players or coaches that a journalist produced," the Barca boss said ahead of Monday's LaLiga game against Huesca. 

"That is a matter for the media. You have to fill the pages every day.  

"I have a contract. We are improving many things and we have to continue."

Koeman revealed he had a conversation with Laporta - who was elected for a second stint as president last Sunday - prior to the second leg against PSG in the French capital.

However, he expects the pair to have more detailed discussions once their schedules allow. 

"I have not spoken with the president yet because there are many games and it must be official that he is president," Koeman said. "We spoke in Paris, but we have to meet later. These are not things to explain outside, but from within the club." 

Jordi Cruyff - son of club legend Johan, who is currently coaching in China - has been linked with becoming part of a new-look board at Barca. 

"I cannot say much because they are things that exist within the club, the president has to decide his team in important positions," Koeman replied when asked about his compatriot returning to Camp Nou. 

"I know Jordi well, as well as his family. He may be a candidate, but I have not discussed this issue."

Lionel Messi's history with newly elected Barcelona president Joan Laporta is a good thing for the club but it still may not be enough to convince the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to stay, accepts Ronald Koeman.

Laporta was confirmed as the permanent successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu on Sunday, winning over 50 per cent of the votes in the long-delayed elections.

Bartomeu left the club in October last year after facing the brunt of the criticism in response to Messi's attempted departure, with the player publicly castigating him and accusing him of reneging on promises.

Laporta had long been seen as the favourite for Sunday's election due to holding the post from 2003 to 2010, one of the club's most successful eras and the period that elevated Messi from youth prospect to global superstar.

Resolving Messi's future is now one of Laporta's chief focuses, with the Barca captain previously suggesting he will only look to stay beyond June – when his contract expires – if the club is competitive.

Laporta routinely emphasised his relationship with Messi during his election campaign, adamant he was the only one of the three candidates able to ensure the player would stay, but Koeman knows the decision ultimately rests with the captain.

"I don't know if it's more likely for Messi to continue [at Barca now Laporta is president]," the Barca boss told reporters on Tuesday ahead of the Champions League last-16 second leg with Paris Saint-Germain.

"It's true that Laporta has a past with Leo and other players. That is positive, but I don't know [if that will help] – he has said that he will decide.

"Only Leo knows what he will do. Hopefully, he continues with us. We all want him to stay.

"Laporta won the election by a considerable distance. The members voted and for the club, it is good to have a president like him to work things out and improve things for the future of this club."

Koeman's own future has been a subject of contention connected to the election, with numerous reports suggesting other coaches had been sounded out by the various candidates.

Mikel Arteta and Xavi are the two names to have been linked most prominently with Koeman's job in recent weeks, but the former Netherlands coach insists he has only received positive vibes from his new boss and those who have worked with him before.

"I know Laporta, we've greeted each other several times in the past. I also know [Frank] Rijkaard well, who worked with him here when Laporta was president last time," he said.

"Laporta gives the coaches a lot of confidence and also his players. He is very involved in his role of helping both. In the end, everything depends on the results."

When asked to relay what Laporta said while addressing the team on Monday, Koeman added: "They were normal things. It went well, he said a few words to the players and staff in the dressing room and there were good vibes.

"Now we have to continue on the path we have started on. Tomorrow [against PSG] we have to continue on that."

Joan Laporta is optimistic superstar captain Lionel Messi will remain at Barcelona after being elected president of the LaLiga giants.

Laporta – who held the post from 2003 to 2010 – won the presential race on Sunday, seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa to return to the position as Josep Maria Bartomeu's successor.

Attention will now turn to six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi amid serious doubts over his future at Camp Nou.

Messi has been tipped to leave on a free transfer at the end of the season, with Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain and Premier League leaders Manchester City the reported frontrunners for the 33-year-old.

After his victory, Laporta delivered a speech and said: "Today marks 20 years since a boy named Leo Messi debuted with Barcelona's Infantil B [U12-13] team.

"Seeing the best player in the world come to vote with his son is an example of what we've said.

"Leo loves Barcelona. That's the reflection of it. The best player in the world loves Barcelona.

"Hopefully that will help him to stay at Barcelona. That's what we want."

Laporta also paid tribute to Barca great Johan Cruyff, adding: "I want to thank all the members for coming out to vote what has been the most important election in the club's history due to [the effects of] the coronavirus pandemic, which has changed our lives.

"I want to thank the members that have supported our campaign. This has been a celebration of democracy and of Barcelona. I also want to pay special thanks to Johan Cruyff, who's no longer with us. I am sure he's helped us.

"Barcelona is a huge family and we will overcome the difficulties together. We will achieve the objectives that we have set out."

Barca are three points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand.

Ronald Koeman's Barca will face Athletic Bilbao in next month's Copa del Rey final, while they are looking to overturn a 4-1 deficit against PSG in the Champions League last 16.

Joan Laporta has won the race to become Barcelona's new president, with the 58-year-old seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa.

Laporta, who held the post from 2003 to 2010, was the favourite to come out on top in Sunday's election, and those predictions proved correct.

An exit poll conducted by Catalan television station TV3 projected Laporta to succeed with 58.3 per cent of the vote over Font (31.3) and Freixa (9.3).

The final figures were not too far off – Laporta claiming 54.28 per cent of the vote (30,184 votes). In total, there were 51,983 valid votes.

Lionel Messi and fellow first-team stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were among members to cast their vote to determine the successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down last October, days before a planned vote of no confidence against his board.

Interim president Carlos Tusquets has had a difficult few months, with Messi, who publically criticised Barca's hierarchy under Bartomeu, still yet to decide on his future, while Ronald Koeman's team trail Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and are 4-1 down in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain.

The vote was scheduled to take place on January 24, yet a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain pushed the election back six weeks.

As well as this delay, Barca's concerns have been compounded by official debt levels of over €1billion and a legal investigation that involves Bartomeu, who was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business on March 3.

However, Barca fans will now be hoping Laporta, who oversaw one of the club's most successful periods which saw them win 12 major trophies, including their first treble under Pep Guardiola, can turn the Blaugrana's fortunes around.

Laporta has pledged to focus on "social and human" results, while also promising to restore La Masia – the club's famed academy – as a major contributor to the first team.

He has also claimed to be the best chance Barca have of convincing Messi to sign a contract extension.

While Koeman was only appointed last year, Laporta has reportedly considered offering the Barca post to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Laporta hit the jackpot when he appointed the inexperienced Guardiola, who was assisted by Arteta at Manchester City, in 2008.

With 80 per cent of the vote counted and Laporta's victory becoming clear, opposing candidate Friexa said: "I want to congratulate Laporta for this victory, which does not allow for any discussion. We must now support our President. Such a high turnout legitimises his win."

Joan Laporta has won the race to become Barcelona's new president, with the 58-year-old seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa.

Laporta, who held the post from 2003 to 2010, was the favourite to come out on top in Sunday's election, and those predictions proved correct.

An exit poll conducted by Catalan television station TV3 projected Laporta to succeed with 58.3 per cent of the vote over Font (31.3) and Freixa (9.3).

The final figures were not too far off – Laporta claiming 54.28 per cent of the vote (30,184 votes). In total, there were 51,983 valid votes.

Lionel Messi and fellow first-team stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were among members to cast their vote to determine the successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down last October, days before a planned vote of no confidence against his board.

Interim president Carlos Tusquets has had a difficult few months, with Messi, who publically criticised Barca's hierarchy under Bartomeu, still yet to decide on his future, while Ronald Koeman's team trail Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and are 4-1 down in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain.

The vote was scheduled to take place on January 24, yet a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain pushed the election back six weeks.

As well as this delay, Barca's concerns have been compounded by official debt levels of over €1billion and a legal investigation that involves Bartomeu, who was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business on March 3.

However, Barca fans will now be hoping Laporta, who oversaw one of the club's most successful periods which saw them win 12 major trophies, including their first treble under Pep Guardiola, can turn the Blaugrana's fortunes around.

Laporta has pledged to focus on "social and human" results, while also promising to restore La Masia – the club's famed academy – as a major contributor to the first team.

He has also claimed to be the best chance Barca have of convincing Messi to sign a contract extension.

While Koeman was only appointed last year, Laporta has reportedly considered offering the Barca post to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Laporta hit the jackpot when he appointed the inexperienced Guardiola, who was assisted by Arteta at Manchester City, in 2008.

With 80 per cent of the vote counted and Laporta's victory becoming clear, opposing candidate Friexa said: "I want to congratulate Laporta for this victory, which does not allow for any discussion. We must now support our President. Such a high turnout legitimises his win."

Lionel Messi was among the Barcelona players to cast his vote in the club's presidential election on Sunday.

Former president Joan Laporta is favourite to return for a second term in charge, with Victor Font and Toni Freixa the other men in the running.

A sometimes ill-tempered campaign was extended when a rise in coronavirus cases put back the original polling day of January 24.

And further tumult was added to proceedings this week when ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu was arrested amid raids on Barcelona's headquarters by Catalan police this week.

Bartomeu was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business.

Elections were called after Bartomeu stood down in October, following a turbulent period in which Messi sought to leave the club.

But Barca captain Messi, who is out of contract in June and yet to commit to his next move, arrived to vote alongside fellow first-teamers Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto and Riqui Puig, as well as ex-Blaugrana forward Luis Enrique.

Laporta said this week he was the only candidate who could ensure Messi would stay at Camp Nou, while Font believes his proposal of bringing in Barcelona great Xavi as head coach would be persuasive to his former team-mate.

Barcelona beat Osasuna 2-0 on Saturday, with Ronald Koeman's side cutting the gap to leaders Atletico Madrid to two points - having played two games more.

Atleti face Real Madrid – third and three points shy of Koeman's men – in Sunday's Madrid derby.

Lionel Messi is only ensured to stay with Barcelona if the presidential elections are won by Joan Laporta, says the favourite for Sunday's vote.

Laporta is bidding to return to the top job at Camp Nou following a successful tenure between 2003 and 2010, which began with the signing of Ronaldinho and concluded amid Pep Guardiola's glorious era in charge.

The emergence of Messi as world football's pre-eminent superstar also happened during that period and Laporta feels his established relationship can help to patch things up between the club and their record goalscorer.

Messi sought to leave Barca after the end of last season and is yet to announce his intentions for when his contract expires in June, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain each linked to the 33-year-old.

Laporta was speaking at a debate alongside fellow candidates Victor Font and Toni Freixa on Tuesday.

Font believes his pledge to bring in Xavi as Barca coach would be persuasive for Messi, who he has earmarked for "a life contract", but Laporta primarily turned his attention towards Freixa, who worked under the presidencies of Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu when cracks in the relationship with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner started to appear.

"We will not be able to compete in money with other offers that [Messi] has," Laporta said.

"What he wants is to win again. I have a great relationship with Leo and he will value the proposal I make. 

"I am the only one who can ensure his continuity. If I don't win, I'm sure Leo won't continue at Barca. 

"He was not very happy with Freixa's time, when they let him see that he was expendable.

"My relationship with the Messi family has always been excellent."

Bartomeu's tenure, which ended in resignation last October after the Messi crisis was partially averted, was cast in an unsavoury light once more on Monday.

The former president was among four men arrested in relation to a raid on Barcelona's club offices by Catalan police, who are investigating possible economic crimes under Bartomeu's administration – reportedly in relation to the "Barcagate" scandal where a third party was allegedly paid to smear club greats including Messi and Guardiola.

The 58-year-old was provisionally released on Tuesday after spending a night in jail, appearing before a judge and exercising his right not to testify to charges of unfair administration and corruption in business.

Freixa expressed "sadness" and "surprise" that such matters should come to a head in election week, although Font went on the attack.

"[Bartomeu's arrest shows] the need and urgency to turn the page and build a new club model to prevent these things from happening," he said.

"We are talking about the possibility that a former president has used money from the entity to attack players and people around Barcelona, ​​including myself."

Laporta, arguably granted such a luxury by his strong position in the polls, opted to remain above the fray on the matter.

“We cannot prejudge or take advantage of this situation for our own benefit," he said.

"You have to let the process evolve. If responsibilities have to be clarified, we will do it."

Barcelona may be in a financial position to move for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland at the end of the season, according to presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

Haaland's stock continues to rise following Wednesday's double for Dortmund in their 3-2 Champions League last-16 first-leg win over Sevilla.

That made the Norway international the quickest player to reach double figures for goals in the competition for a single club, doing so in just seven matches - three games fewer than Roy Makaay for Bayern Munich between 2003 and 2004.

He has now scored a double in three successive Champions League games, having also netted twice against Club Brugge in the group stage.

Former Salzburg star Haaland has 18 goals in 13 games in the competition overall, which is a tally only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski can match since the start of 2019-20.

That type of scoring form has seen Haaland strongly linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus and Barcelona.

Despite Barca's well-known financial struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic, Laporta - who has close links to Haaland's agent Mino Raiola - is not ruling out a possible move.

"If we have to improve the football team, I have the cards and I'm ready to play them," he said in direct response to the links with the 20-year-old attacker.

"It's because of the experience and the knowledge I have of the people who could intervene in all these situations.

"I want to send a message of calm to the Barcelona fans - we will be economically sustainable again."

Laporta is one of three remaining candidates in the running to take over as Barca's next president, along with Victor Font and Toni Freixa.

The elections were originally due to take place in January but had to be pushed back to March 7 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lionel Messi's Barcelona contract is the biggest in the history of sport, landing the superstar forward more than €555million over four years.

That is the astonishing claim made by El Mundo, with the Spanish newspaper reporting on Sunday that it had obtained details of the deal signed by the 33-year-old in 2017.

The mega-money agreement, which expires in June this year, would see Messi receive up to €555,237,619 across four seasons, providing a number of conditions are met.

Messi was at the centre of a major transfer storm when he attempted to force a move away from Camp Nou last August, but was left frustrated when Barca refused to sanction an exit.

Amid a fraught presidential election campaign, it has remained apparent that all is not well at the Catalan club, whose financial worries are cast in a fresh light after El Mundo's stunning front-page revelations, with the outlet claiming to have laid hands on a copy of "the most sought-after document".

In addition to annual earnings in excess of €138m – dependent on some variables – the report says Messi received a renewal fee of over €115m, and a loyalty bonus just shy of €78m.

The Argentina international, who also rakes in millions in image rights, is said to have earned more than €500m from the eye-watering deal so far.

Barca's accounts for the 2019-20 season showed gross debt had reached €820m, with the coronavirus pandemic having further dented their outlook.

Against the backdrop of those financial woes, Messi's desire to leave, and with a fractious presidential election not due to be concluded until March, Barca are still off the pace in LaLiga despite a run of four consecutive top-flight wins.

Ronald Koeman's side are 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid ahead of Sunday's visit of Athletic Bilbao.

Messi, who was red carded for the first time in his career earlier this month, has contributed 15 goals in all competitions.

Lionel Messi will "do everything in his power" to stay at Barcelona as long as he receives a suitable offer, according to presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

Messi's future has been the subject of speculation and debate for many months, with the club captain attempting to force through a move away last August.

At the time, he was adamant a contractual clause that allowed him to leave for free was still active, but Barca refused to sanction an exit and Messi opted against dragging them through the courts.

Since then Messi has taken a few public jabs at the club, though the early resignation of previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu in October is thought to have been a positive development in Barca's bid to rebuild the relationship.

Messi's contract expires at the end of the season and he has assured fans he will not make any decisions until Barca's campaign has concluded.

Laporta, the overwhelming favourite to succeed Bartomeu when the presidential election is given the green light to go ahead in either February or March, is convinced Messi wants to stay with the Blaugrana.

"Messi is now totally focused on catching Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and playing the Paris Saint-Germain tie in the Champions League," Laporta is quoted as saying by Sport.

"I do not know if he will be playing on Sunday [in the Supercopa de Espana final] but he will be on the bench and it is important that Leo encourage his team-mates.

"I see him more and more happy, he is enjoying it. I know that he wants to stay and I know that he will do everything in his power to stay as long as the club can offer him an offer that suits him."

One player who looks likely to arrive at Barca is Manchester City defender Eric Garcia, who has long been linked with a return to Camp Nou, where he began his career.

Laporta understands Garcia will not join this month but, assuming the new board agrees to his signing, he is being lined up for the end of the season once his contract at City runs out.

"Eric Garcia will not come this winter," Laporta added. "We cannot give a letter to the manager to carry out acts of disposition.

"The options and figures have been explained to us and we have all concluded that if the contract ends, the new board decides to incorporate him.

"We have assessed the player's salary, and it was an operation that had to be carried out by assessing the financial situation of the club."

Three candidates are in the running to became Barcelona president after Emili Rousaud withdrew from the electoral process.

Rousaud announced on Thursday that he is no longer in the frame to replace Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down from the role in October.

Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa are the trio of candidates who are in the race to be named president.

Laporta, the favourite to return for a second term, had 9,625 signatures validated, while there were 4,431 and 2,634 for Font and Freixa respectively in the validation process for an election that will take place on Sunday January 24.

Rousaud had stated he no longer wants to be involved in a "dirty war" for the right to succeed Bartomeu.

Marca quoted him as saying: "It was a day of impressive dignity because, to my surprise, the majority decision was not to agree to join another candidacy, because we cannot tolerate the dirty war and we prefer to stay out.

"Our sporting and economic proposals were the best."

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