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Messi extends love affair with Barca

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MADRID, Dec 18: Barcelona’s Argentinian three-time Ballon D’Or winner Lionel Messi has agreed to renew his contract at the Spanish giants until June 2018, the club said on Tuesday.

Messi — who has been at the club since 2004 — is the top scorer in the league with 25 goals so far this season and recently broke Gerd Mueller’s 40-year record for the most goals in a calendar year, scoring 90 goals in 2012.

Relying on the Argentina forward’s uncanny ability to puncture defences, Barcelona have attained a Spanish-league record start of 15 victories in 16 rounds.

Barca also reached agreements with two of its other top players, veteran defender and captain Carles Puyol and midfielder Xavi Hernandez, who will each sign up to stay until 2016.

“This news means that FC Barcelona has secured its ties with three of its most important players,” Barca said in a statement on their website, adding that the contracts would be signed “over the course of the next few weeks.”

Puyol, the 34-year-old captain, had said he wants to continue his professional career until he’s 40, although he said he didn’t want to “have to drag myself onto the field.”

Xavi’s existing deal ran until June 2016 depending on appearances but the 32-year-old midfielder’s new contract will end then regardless of the number of times he plays, they added.

Barcelona are 13 points clear of their fierce rivals, title holders Real Madrid, at the top of the Spanish league, and nine points ahead of second-placed Atletico Madrid, who they beat 4-1 last weekend.—Agencies

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