Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho feels there is little chance Lionel Messi will become available in the transfer market and hopes the Argentina international will remain at Barcelona until the end of his career.
Recent reports from Spain suggested Messi is hesitant to renew his contract at Camp Nou – with his current deal due to expire in 2018 – fuelling speculation he could leave Barca.
Manchester City are believed to be keeping a close eye on the 29-year-old’s situation, while United could also join the race for his signature, but Mourinho thinks it is unlikely Messi will ever play in the Premier League.
“It is the same story with Messi every season. The papers always claim he is leaving, but it never happens in the end,” Mourinho said at a news conference on Wednesday.
“Honestly, I hope he never leaves because he belongs to Barcelona and Barcelona belong to him.
“The natural thing and beautiful thing would be for him to stay and finish his career at Barcelona.
“I think he will be staying at Barcelona, but that is just a personal opinion.
“For Man United, I am absolutely sure he won’t come.”
Mourinho told reporters ahead of his side’s Europa League meeting with Feyenoord that United will take up the option of extending Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s stay at the club by another year.
He also explained he has designs on a long-term stay at Old Trafford, but knows that is dependent on results.
“Let’s go step by step. I am in the beginning of my contract and also in the beginning of the process,” he said.
“If you ask me if I want to stay longer than three years? Then I say yes I would love it, but also I have to earn and deserve that.
“If the club feels I deserve to stay then I will be very, very proud.
“The job is as difficult as I was expecting, when I said I wanted to win the Premier League this year, I said it was risky.
“I still can’t believe how we didn’t win our last three home games because we played so well, yet we didn’t win.”
Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Arsenal left United sixth in the Premier League, nine points adrift of leaders Chelsea, whose coach Antonio Conte is also in his first season in charge.
Mourinho believes an uninspired start should not necessarily hinder his chances of success, citing United great Alex Ferguson as an example to chime with supporters.
“I think by playing well the future can be bright,” he added. “The team is happy with the way they’re playing, they are happy with direction.
“With our style of play we are keeping people believing that the good results will come.
“The best manager in Premier League history needed a few years to build a successful period, if the best needed time then others do too.”