Lionel Messi to pen new Barcelona contract

Lionel Messi has agreed a new contract with Barcelona, a deal that will keep him at the Spanish club until 2018. The Argentinian international, now aged 25, has enjoyed a sensational year, scoring a record-breaking 90 goals in 2012. Captain Carles Puyol, aged 34, and iconic midfielder Xavi Hernandez, aged 32, have also agreed new deals that will keep them at Barcelona until 2016.

"In the coming weeks Puyol, Xavi and Messi will sign their respective new contracts," the club confirmed. "This news means that FC Barcelona has secured its ties with three of its most important players."

Messi's current deal runs out in June 2016, with Puyol's deal running until 2013 and Xavi until 2014. All three players are products of the club's world-class youth academy. Lionel Messi has been with Barcelona since he was 13 and made his league debut as a 17-year-old against Espanyol on 16 October 2004. He has been in the best goal-scoring form of his career in 2012 and surpassed Gerd Mueller's 40-year-old record of 85 goals scored in a calendar year with a double in a 2-1 win over Real Betis on 9 December. Messi then improved his own record, taking his tally this year to 90 goals on Sunday with another brace as Barcelona defeated Atletico Madrid 4-1. Moreover, he has scored twice in each of the last eight games he has started.

Lionel Messi is in contention to be named World Player of the Year for a fourth time, having been included on a three-man shortlist alongside Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and Barcelona team-mate Andres Iniesta.

Carles Puyol made his Barcelona debut in 1999 before becoming captain in 2004, the same year Messi made his league debut. He has made over 560 appearances and captained the club to three Champions League, five La Liga and two Copa del Rey titles. Xavi is the longest-serving Barcelona player of the three, having made his debut in 1998. He holds the record for the most appearances with the club with 651.

Barcelona are in a strong position to claim a 22nd La Liga title this season as they have a nine-point lead at the top of the table, having won 15 of the 16 games they have played so far this season. Barcelona's next game is away at Valladolid on December 22, here are the odds from Bet365 for that match:

Valladolid win - 12/1
Draw - 5/1
Barcelona win - 2/9

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