Barca secure futures of Messi, Xavi, Puyol Song content

MADRID, Dec 18, (RTRS): Barcelona secured the futures of leading players Lionel Messi, Xavi and Carles Puyol with renewed contracts on Tuesday. World Player of the Year Messi’s deal has been extended by two years to June 30, 2018, which ties him until he is 31, the La Liga leaders said in a statement. The 34-year-old Puyol, the club’s captain, has agreed a three-year extension to June 30, 2016, which would effectively see the Spanish international through to the end of his playing career at 38. Xavi’s existing deal ran until June 2016 depending on appearances but the 32-year-old midfielder’s new contract would now end then regardless of the number of times he played, Barca added. The new contracts will be signed in the coming weeks.

“It is with great satisfaction that the board are able to bring continuity to this successful project with the renewed deals for Xavi, Puyol and Messi,” Barcelona director Toni Freixa told a news conference. “Puyol, Messi and Xavi are three basic pillars. It was essential to have our principal figures tied to the club. “The buy-out clauses remain the same until there is a financial improvement.” Offering Messi a further two years indicates how important the Argentine is to the club and ensures they secure his services over the peak of his playing career, injury permitting. At 25, Messi has already set a number of club scoring records and is favourite to win a fourth World Player of the Year award next month.

He has been the top scorer in the world’s highest-profile club competition, the Champions League, for four years in a row, and hit the headlines recently as he racked up his 90th goal in 2012 for club and country.
Barca built their team around the fleet-footed forward over four trophy-filled seasons under coach Pep Guardiola until he stepped aside last May, and the transition to former number two Tito Vilanova has failed to upset the ‘the flea’s’ rhythm. Messi has already scored 25 goals in 16 La Liga games this season, the latest being a double against second-placed Atletico Madrid in a 4-1 victory on Sunday which left Barca clear at the top, and 13 points ahead of their great title rivals Real Madrid. Puyol has been a central figure at the heart of the Barca defence for more than a decade, famous for his commitment and aggression. His return after a string of injuries has settled a backline that looked distinctly shaky earlier in the campaign.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Puyol said: “I want to play until I am 40. I want to continue playing...but when it doesn’t feel right I will stop whether I have a contract in place or not.” Like Puyol and Messi, playmaker Xavi is a product of the club’s acclaimed youth academy, and has pulled the strings in midfield for more than a decade.
With Cesc Fabregas settling into the side more, and the talented Thiago Alcantara emerging, Spanish international Xavi has increased competition for his place but remains a vital part of Vilanova’s plans.
Meanwhile, when Alex Song sealed a five-year, 19 million-euro ($25 million) deal to join Barcelona from Arsenal in August many wondered how he could possibly hope to win a regular starting place in a team graced with some of the world’s best midfielders.
Four months on, the doubts appear to be justified.

The 25-year-old Cameroon international has made 11 starts for Barca in 25 La Liga, King’s Cup and Champions League games and there is a niggling perception that his adaptation to the intricate one-touch style is taking longer than it should. It may not have helped that a rash of injuries forced coach Tito Vilanova to use him as a makeshift centre back and he is competing for a starting spot with, among others, Spain international Sergio Busquets, widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in the game.
In an interview with Reuters at Barca’s training ground on Monday, Song appeared unperturbed by the criticism and said he and his family were enjoying life in the Catalan capital.
“I know it’s not easy to start to play but I know we have a lot of games and I need just to be ready every time when the manager needs me to play and just do my job in the training,” said Song, the seventh African to play for Barca.

“Sergio (Busquets) is one of the best in that position and I am very happy to train with him,” he added.
“I know that when you work every single day with the top players you learn a lot and you improve yourself.
“I am happy to be here because everybody is helping me to get the most out of myself. There are not many chances to find a club like this one, with humble people who are the best in the world.” Clad in a cream-coloured v-necked sweater, jeans and white shoes with luminous green trim, Song said former Arsenal teammate Cesc Fabregas, a product of Barca’s youth academy who returned to his boyhood club in 2011, had played an important role in the transfer. Song, whose full name Alexandre Dimitri Song Billong, and his family had moved into the wealthy Barcelona neighbourhood of Pedralbes, taking the house where former France international Thierry Henry, another ex-Arsenal player who had a stint at Barca, used to live.

Song’s two sons, aged four and six, have enrolled in Barca’s youth academy and were learning Spanish.
“I have known him (Fabregas) for many years and he is like a brother to me, he helped and guided me,” Song, who joined Arsenal as a teenager after a brief stint at French club Bastia, added. “We grew up together, we stayed together like eight years in London. He was my captain there and he did really well.” Song still follows the Premier League and said he was sure that Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger would turn things around for the London club after a rocky start to the season. “I think for them it’s very difficult,” Song said. “But you know when you take the new players it’s not easy but hopefully they will come back soon,” he added. “I think it’s no problem because I know Arsene very well. He will fight to bring the club back to being successful and hopefully it will come soon because as I said it’s not easy.”


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