Lionel Messi and Barcelona Finalize Contract Extension Stretching to 2018

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 7, 2013

Lionel Messi and Barcelona have finalized a contract extension that will keep the world's best player at Camp Nou through June of 2018, the club's official site reports.

The new deal is a two-year extension on his previous contract, and it solidifies the dynamic striker's future with the La Liga powerhouse. Messi has netted nearly 300 goals across all competitions with Barca since making his debut during the 2003-04 season.

Messi, who plays for Argentina at the international level, has been on a goal-scoring barrage over the past three seasons. He found the net 91 times in 2012, which established a new record by passing Gerd Muller's longstanding mark.

His dominance has led to four straight Ballon d'Or awards and helped Barcelona capture numerous trophies, including five La Liga titles and three Champions League triumphs. Few players around the globe have made a bigger impact on one club than Messi.

By locking him up for a couple extra seasons, Barca is illustrating a commitment to their top player and fending off any potential transfer interest from big-spending clubs. It's a symbolic move that shows his high status with the Blaugrana.

Nothing will change for Messi. He will remain the driving force behind one of Europe's most dangerous attacking groups. Barcelona currently holds a nine-point lead in La Liga, due in large part to Messi's league-leading 34 goals in 22 appearances.

It's only February, but he's already making his case for a fifth consecutive Ballon d'Or. Barcelona don't want to see him leave, and the contract extension emphasizes that.