BARCELONA, Spain — Lionel Messi won't make a decision on his long-term future at Barcelona until the season is over, with the soccer great also raising the possibility of playing in the United States one day in a TV interview broadcast Sunday.
“I am going to wait until the end of the season (to decide),” the 33-year-old Messi told private Spanish station La Sexta.
About fifth-place Barcelona's future prospects, Messi said “there is no money” and “it is not going to be easy to turn this around.”
As of Jan. 1, Messi could negotiate with other clubs as his contract with Barcelona is set to expire in June.
In August, Messi stunned Barcelona by telling the club he wanted to leave following a season without titles that ended in a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich. The club said no, and Messi backed down saying that he could not take his club to court. He has played as hard as ever since then, but has not said if he has changed his mind over wanting to leave.
“Now I am focused on winning titles instead of other things," Messi said in the rare interview. “I have always had the idea that I would like to have the experience of playing in the United States, but this is not the time for it.”
Messi also said he would not publicly support any of the candidates who plan to run in club elections set for Jan. 24.
Nor was he overly enthusiastic about the immediate prospects of the team.
“Let the best candidate win,” Messi said. “Whoever does will find a very difficult situation, it is not going to be easy to turn this around. It is going to be difficult to bring in players. That requires a lot of money and there is no money. We need several important players to get back to fighting for titles.”
Barcelona reported losses of 97 million euros ($118 million) last season and sold off several veteran players, including Messi’s strike partner and friend, Luis Suárez.
The interview with Spanish journalist Jordi Évole was recorded recently and aired hours after Barcelona announced that Messi would miss Tuesday's Spanish league game against Eibar due to an unspecified ankle injury.
In a statement about the injury, Barcelona said “first team player, Lionel Messi, is completing the treatment for his right ankle, and is expected to return to training after the FC Barcelona v SD Eibar match.”
Messi is reportedly in Argentina taking a short winter break after Barcelona gave its players some time off following their last game on Dec. 22 against Valladolid.
Messi played the entire 90 minutes of the 3-0 win over Valladolid and scored his 644th career goal for Barcelona to overtake Pelé’s all-time scoring milestone for their clubs.
After Eibar, Barcelona's next league match is at Huesca on Jan. 3.
Messi has helped Barcelona win four Champions League and 10 Spanish league titles since his debut in 2004.
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Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press