Barcelona club president Josep Bartomeu has admitted talks to sign Lautaro Martinez are ‘at a standstill’ but insists Lionel Messi will not leave to join the Serie A side.
The Catalan giants have long held interest in Inter Milan striker Martinez as a long-term replacement for 33-year-old forward Luis Suarez.
But speaking to Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo, Bartomeu conceded there were no new developments on their attempts to sign the Argentine.
‘We’ve talked to Inter, but right now it’s at a standstill,’ he said.
Asked if the 22-year-old Argentina international remains a priority signing, Bartomeu added: ‘Our sporting focus right now is on the Champions League, which is just around the corner.’
Bartomeu also denied that club captain Messi will be departing the Camp Nou to join the San Siro outfit upon the expiration of his contract next year.
Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport claimed on Saturday that Inter are eyeing a sensational move for the Barcelona star and believe they have the cash to lure the 33-year-old to Serie A.
But Bartomeu believes Messi will stick to his word and see out the rest of his career at the Catalan side.
‘Messi has said on several occasions that he wants to retire here and I have no doubts that he’ll renew [his contract].
‘I have a very close relationship with him, as I do with all the captains.’
Barcelona’s club president also indicated the club will focus on bringing through their academy stars next season as opposed to recruiting big name signings.
Asked if lots of youngsters will take part next season, the 57-year-old said: ‘Yes, we already have seven new signings.
‘In January, Barca made a commitment to the future and since we did that people are seeing the quality we have.’
In his answer, Bartomeu was referring to the rapid promotion into the first team of Ansu Fati and Riqui Puig this season.
Fellow academy graduates Ronald Araujo and Alex Collado have also seen first-team action, with Dani Morer, Aranu Tenas and highly-rated Rey Manaj set to follow suit next season.