Lionel Messi was among the Barcelona players to cast his vote in the club's presidential election on Sunday.

Former president Joan Laporta is favourite to return for a second term in charge, with Victor Font and Toni Freixa the other men in the running.

A sometimes ill-tempered campaign was extended when a rise in coronavirus cases put back the original polling day of January 24.

And further tumult was added to proceedings this week when ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu was arrested amid raids on Barcelona's headquarters by Catalan police this week.

Bartomeu was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business.

Elections were called after Bartomeu stood down in October, following a turbulent period in which Messi sought to leave the club.

But Barca captain Messi, who is out of contract in June and yet to commit to his next move, arrived to vote alongside fellow first-teamers Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto and Riqui Puig, as well as ex-Blaugrana forward Luis Enrique.

Laporta said this week he was the only candidate who could ensure Messi would stay at Camp Nou, while Font believes his proposal of bringing in Barcelona great Xavi as head coach would be persuasive to his former team-mate.

Barcelona beat Osasuna 2-0 on Saturday, with Ronald Koeman's side cutting the gap to leaders Atletico Madrid to two points - having played two games more.

Atleti face Real Madrid – third and three points shy of Koeman's men – in Sunday's Madrid derby.

After weeks of delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Barcelona will at last hold their presidential elections on Sunday, March 7.

More than 111,000 members, or socios, will cast their vote either in person at polling stations or by mail to determine who will succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu in the top job.

Bartomeu stepped down last October, just days before a scheduled vote of no confidence against his board, but interim president Carlos Tusquets has hardly had an easy few months since.

As well as a delay in the hustings, which were initially set for January 24, Barca's off-the-pitch concerns have been exacerbated by official debt levels of more than €1billion and a legal investigation that involves Bartomeu, who was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business on March 3.

Meanwhile, the men's senior football team requires an overhaul made even more difficult by the economic damage wrought by COVID-19, with Ronald Koeman's men chasing Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and facing a likely Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16.

The presidency has therefore become arguably the toughest job in elite football and could have a significant impact on the medium-term future of the club.

Who are the candidates?

There are three men in the race for the presidency: Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font.

The favourite is Laporta, who previously held the post from 2003 to 2010, one of Barca's most successful periods that saw them win 12 major trophies, including their first treble under Pep Guardiola in 2009. He remains popular with a large part of the fan base and is arguably the candidate on best terms with Lionel Messi.

Freixa, who campaigned unsuccessfully in 2015, previously advised Laporta's board of directors and served as spokesperson under Sandro Rosell and Bartomeu, and has been involved with the club for 18 years. His knowledge and experience of working for different administrations at Camp Nou could be key.

Font, meanwhile, is banking on the support of those members who feel a fresh approach is needed. A successful entrepreneur, his expertise lies in telecommunication, media and technology, but his vision for Barca's future has been worked on since 2013 and perhaps represents the most prudent option available.

What do they promise?

The message from Laporta's camp is simple: "We are a group of Barca fans with ideas for the future and the experience to carry them out." He promises to focus on "social and human" results, as well as those on the pitch and in financial statements. He has vowed to put faith back in academy products from La Masia to complement the first-team stars, while he insists he is the best chance Barca have of convincing Messi to sign a contract extension.

Freixa's campaign – Fidels al Barca, or 'True to Barca' – is, he says, "a candidacy for the people, free of outside interests". Following a member-first approach, he has vowed to correct Barca's crippling €1.2billion debt levels without the need for outside investors. Freixa's focus is on weaponising the club's passionate supporters: he wants to pack out the stadium "with Barca fans, not tourists", with reward schemes in place for the most loyal followers, and make sure the planned Espai Barca redevelopment of the stadium and surrounding area does not compromise the club's image.

Font has been building his 'Yes to the Future' campaign for the best part of eight years. Founded on "new blood and good governance", his is an honest approach: accepting the club have reached "an historic crossroads" that requires professional experience to navigate, he says his project has the groundwork and the expertise to be by far the most viable for the club's future. His plan is "to revamp collectively the club and to ensure that Barca can contribute in a tangible way to making the world a better place".

Will they hire a new coach?

Ronald Koeman has rightly become fed up with questions over his future and will be glad when Sunday's elections are over and he can find out from the new president what his job prospects look like.

While there can be few guarantees for any coach – Barca could still win the treble this season, or end up with nothing – it feels unlikely Koeman will be in charge for 2021-22.

Laporta has reportedly considered offering the job to Arsenal's Mikel Arteta, having previously struck gold with former players when he gave the inexperienced Guardiola a shot back in 2008. Font, who has the valuable support of former club captain Carles Puyol, is believed to be eager to bring Xavi back to Camp Nou after the ex-midfielder's impressive spell with Al-Sadd in Qatar.

Freixa has at least offered Koeman a public show of support until the end of his contract next year, but he too has spoken of wanting Xavi back in Catalonia sooner rather than later, even if that would initially see him take over the B team.

What will happen with transfers?

Barca's dire financial situation makes star signings, the kind on which many past club elections in Spain have been based, a very difficult thing to expect.

Font has adopted by far the more prudent approach, warning fans that selling high-earning under-performers and restructuring the wage bill is essential to stave off a deepening financial crisis, but that is not a policy that will appease fans desperate to see Barca challenging for the Champions League again.

Freixa has gone for the Hail Mary, insisting signing Kylian Mbappe AND Erling Haaland would be perfectly possible and that he has an investor lined up who could bolster the club to the tune of €250m through a stake in Barca Corporate.

Laporta's priority is to build a competitive side around their club captain...

So, what about Messi?

As mentioned, Laporta claims electing him will give Barca the best chance of convincing Messi to stay. The Argentina star broke into the first team during Laporta's previous presidency and enjoyed great success in that spell, including winning the Champions League – the trophy he covets most – under Frank Rijkaard and Guardiola.

Font and Freixa, without any personal connection to call upon, have each admitted keeping Messi depends more on Barca's ability to sell the strength of their new project to the six-time Ballon d'Or winner.

Again, Font is the real pragmatist. When El Mundo leaked details of Messi's massive contract, Font rejected the notion that paying such a salary was a financial burden too great to bear, insisting Messi was an asset who helped to generate as much money as he cost. However, he also told Onda Cero: "If [Messi] is not here in the future then it would not be the end of the world."

Ronald Koeman believes the combination between Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba for Barcelona is almost unstoppable.

Messi set up Alba's opener and Ilaix Moriba's sealer as Barca recorded a 2-0 LaLiga win at Osasuna on Saturday.

Of Alba's past 16 goals for Barca in all competitions, Messi has assisted eight.

Koeman, whose side closed to within two points of leaders Atletico Madrid, said the duo's connection was almost impossible to stop.

"You can see in every game our opponents are trying to cover that, trying to block Messi's pass to play the ball in behind to Jordi Alba," the Barcelona coach told a news conference.

"So, at many points of a game that pass between them isn't possible. But I don't think you can stop these two players and that connection that's there between Messi and Jordi Alba because it's something brilliant.

"There are always moments in a game where that pass does appear and those two are calm enough on the ball to pick it out and they can pick it out very easily and they really do it at the right time.

"You can't really stop it because it's just natural instinct."

Atletico have played two fewer games than Barca, with Diego Simeone's side facing Real Madrid in a derby clash on Sunday.

Lionel Messi provided two assists as goals from Jordi Alba and Ilaix Moriba saw off Osasuna 2-0 to propel Barcelona to within two points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

With Atleti going head-to-head with Real Madrid on Sunday, Barca took the chance to apply pressure to their title rivals by claiming an eighth successive away win in LaLiga.

Messi played an integral role, teeing up Alba to break the deadlock with a sublime pass – eight of the full-back's last 16 club goals have been assisted by Barca's number 10.

His second assist was more subtle, with a gentle lay off setting the stage for Ilaix to thump in his maiden Barca goal, and Koeman can now tune into the Madrid derby with his team in a strong position.

 

South America's footballing governing body has suspended the two World Cup qualifying rounds due to take place in March.

CONMEBOL issued a statement on Saturday confirming it will speak with FIFA and national associations to agree on new dates for the matches.

The decision was taken amid concerns around the logistics of players joining up with their national teams while travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic are in place.

CONMEBOL said it was "impossible" to guarantee all South American players could link up with respective squads in a timely manner.

The next two rounds of matches were scheduled to be held on March 25, 26 and 30.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman said the club must be realistic about their title chances in LaLiga.

Koeman's Barca are second and five points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a match in hand, through 25 rounds ahead of Saturday's trip to Osasuna.

Barca – into next month's Copa del Rey final as they look to overturn a 4-1 deficit against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League last 16 – have struggled to convince this season.

While Koeman played down talk of the title, the Dutchman knows Barca have a chance to end the season on a high in the Copa final against Athletic Bilbao on April 17.

"As the coach and the players we have to be more realistic," Koeman told reporters. "We cannot change our minds and opinions about the team's chances to win something all the time.

"We know we have the [Copa del Rey] final and have a chance to win a big trophy in Spain. And depending on the results of the team we can fight for the title.

"We're several points behind Atletico Madrid and we can't lose any more points because then our objective will change and that's difficult.

"Hopefully at the end of the season we can say that, despite some problems, we have done well and that we have won a title. And that would be great."

Barcelona are undefeated in their last 15 games in LaLiga (W12 D3) – the second best current run of any team in the top five European leagues, only behind Premier League leaders Manchester City (19).

Lionel Messi has scored 19 goals in 23 LaLiga appearances this season and the six-time Ballon d'Or winner could reach 20 goals in a 13th consecutive campaign in the competition – a record.

Barca captain Messi has scored 23 goals in 19 LaLiga appearances against Osasuna, netting three braces in his last five games against them at El Sadar in the league.

Lionel Messi's inspirational form through February has seen the Barcelona captain collect his first Player of the Month award of the season.

February was Messi's most fruitful month of the 2020-21 campaign to date as he scored seven goals, two more than he managed in January.

No player scored more than him, while Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak was the only other individual to net more than four times in the month.

Messi's goalscoring habits helped Barca win four of their five games in the qualifying period, all of which saw him score at least once.

As such, Barca have improved their chances of potentially sparking a genuine title scrap in the final months of the season, with the Blaugrana only five points adrift of the leaders Atletico Madrid.

 

While Diego Simeone's men do still have a game in hand, Los Colchoneros also have the tricky test of a derby clash with Real Madrid to look forward to this weekend.

Messi's commitment to the cause was questioned earlier in the campaign after he rocked the club in pre-season with his transfer request.

He had only scored four times heading into December, when he added a further three – he already has 12 in 2021 and sits atop the 'Pichichi' standings with 19, three clear of nearest rival and friend Luis Suarez.

Messi is only the second Barcelona player to win the award this term, with Ansu Fati – who has missed much of 2020-21 through injury – claiming it for September.

Ronald Koeman's captain saw off competition from Isak, Yassine Bounou, Thibaut Courtois, Alex Berenguer, Nabil Fekir and Jose Luis Morales to win the prize.

Jadon Sancho can be compared to Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi with his performances for Borussia Dortmund, according to former Germany international goalkeeper Jens Lehmann.

After a slow start to the campaign amid talk of a move to Manchester United falling through, Sancho's form has picked up of late and he is on course to hit double figures for goals and assists for the third Bundesliga season running.

The England international last week registered his 50th assist in the German top flight, becoming the youngest ever player to do so in what was his 99th appearance in the competition.

Sancho has now been directly involved in 12 Bundesliga goals in 2021 - six goals and six assists - which is behind only Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski (11 goals and two assists).

In Europe's top five leagues, Barcelona forward Messi (15) is the only other player to have been directly involved in more goals this calendar year than Sancho, who is level with Atalanta's Luis Muriel.

Lehmann has been impressed by the 20-year-old's form and has backed the youngster, as well as compatriot and BVB team-mate Jude Bellingham, to remain in the Bundesliga, despite ongoing talk of a possible move to the Premier League.

"He's done very well," Lehmann told the Daily Star. "Right now his stats can be compared to Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski, and I think the third best in the whole of Europe. It's fantastic for English football."

Asked about the future of Sancho and Bellingham, Lehmann said: "Right now, I think they're staying. Most of the big clubs have full squads anyway.

"You'd have to be really, really outstanding if a bigger club tries to get you. But if you can imagine a club like Chelsea, Manchester United or Manchester City, there is already 30 or 35 players plus the players on loan.

"It's not that easy to make a decision for guys like Bellingham and Sancho at this early stage in their careers. Would they add something? We're not sure, but first of all they need to decrease their own squad size."

Sancho, who scored the winning goal for Dortmund in their DFB-Pokal win at Borussia Monchengladbach on Tuesday, is a major doubt for this weekend's Der Klassiker showdown with Bayern due to a leg injury.

It is not normally a mood he has to strive too hard to locate but, after Barcelona's restorative 2-0 win over Sevilla at the weekend, Gerard Pique was bullish.

On Wednesday, Ronald Koeman's side will seek to overturn the same deficit in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against the Andalusian club.

The chastening 4-1 Champions League loss to Paris Saint-Germain, where Pique's return from three months out with a knee injury was entirely ruined by him having to try to mark Kylian Mbappe, left Barca's hopes of averting a second trophy-less season hanging by a thread.

But goals from Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi made it back-to-back LaLiga wins last time out, while there is the prospect of one or both of the Madrid clubs dropping points when they meet on Sunday.

"We've seen much worse things and the team, despite those two games, is one to believe in this year," Pique said.

"It's not an ideal situation, but I'm confident in the team. Everything is in our head. If we turn it around on Wednesday, the season changes completely."

Wind the pre-match build-up forward a few days and Barcelona's offices have been raided, their ex-president has been arrested, candidates for this weekend's presidential election are lambasting one another in public and Koeman is fielding questions about his future.

It's not an ideal situation.

Of course, this is the state of perma-chaos in which Barcelona reside nowadays. It is a state that persuaded Messi to try to force his exit from the club and it is a state within which they must now convince him to remain when the great man's contract expires in June.

Even more so than in the trophy-laden days that have dominated his record-breaking career, everything at Barca is shot through an unblinking Messi lens.

Take the dramatic off-field developments of recent days.

Josep Maria Bartomeu was the president who drove Messi to the brink of leaving. In fact, the superstar forward was only forced to stay because he claimed Bartomeu went back on a promise to let him walk away if he chose to do so at the end of 2019-20 – a season that, of course, concluded with that implausible 8-2 humiliation against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Bartomeu's arrest by Catalan police to face charges of unfair administration and corruption of business was reportedly related to the "Barcagate" scandal, when social media company 13 Ventures were allegedly paid to smear club greats, including Messi. Pricewaterhouse Coopers were commissioned by Bartomeu to investigate the matter and found in Barca's favour.

Joan Laporta, president during those glory years when Messi blossomed under Guardiola, is favourite to be elected for a return to the top job. On Tuesday, he debated opponents Victor Font and Toni Freixa, and Messi was obviously on the agenda.

Laporta believes he is the only candidate who can "ensure" a Messi stay, boasting of "a great relationship with Leo" and using this as a point of difference between himself and Bartomeu ally Freixa.

Font believes he has the best proposition for Messi, namely bring back his old team-mate as head coach. Which is a lovely idea, if not a lovely subject for Koeman to address a couple of hours later at his news conference to preview a potentially season-defining game.

Maybe this is why Messi continues to hold his cards close to his chest. So long as only he knows his intentions over his future, he is in control. Soon enough it will become a matter of public debate, blame, recriminations and conspiracy.

The other thing he still controls masterfully is events on the field.

Much of the talk around Messi's future increasingly centres on his age. Next season he'll be 34. Would he enhance the destructive power of the PSG forward line that wrought such havoc at Camp Nou? Do City need another twinkle-toed creator sauntering in off the right flank?

To dismiss Messi as being over-the-hill, as some would have you believe, needs a little evidence to back it up. He has been most unhelpful in that regard.

In 2021, no player in Europe's top five leagues has more than his 14 goals (level with Robert Lewandowski) across all competitions.

Messi rounded off an all-action showing against Sevilla on Saturday with his 30th goal against them in LaLiga. He has never scored more often against a single opponent.

He supplied the assist for Dembele and completed 41 of 45 passes in the opposition half (91.1 per cent). Additionally, the Argentina international has attempted 100 dribbles this season – putting him second to Adama Traore in the top five leagues.

"What he wants is to win again," Laporta said, before casting himself ambitiously at the heart of this story. "If I don't win, I'm sure Leo won't continue at Barca."

It is hard to imagine Messi pouring over Sunday's election results with any great concern. He feels like a man on a mission and in the mood as events clatter on ominously all around him. On the pitch he remains in charge, about the only guarantee an embattled Barcelona have left.

Ansu Fati has been advised to stay humble by Barcelona great Lionel Messi, who the teenager would love to see alongside Cristiano Ronaldo in a five-a-side dream team.

Spain international Fati has made a huge impact at Camp Nou since bursting onto the scene in August 2019, setting a number of records along the way before being struck down by a knee injury that has ruled him out since November.

Fati is Barca's youngest ever goalscorer, the youngest player to score and provide an assist in a single LaLiga game, the youngest Camp Nou goalscorer and the youngest player to score in a Champions League game.

Many have compared the 18-year-old's rise to stardom as being similar to that of Messi, who has gone on to win a record six Ballons d'Or across his 17 seasons in Barca's first team.

And La Masia product Fati, who has been nominated for the Laureus Breakthrough of the Year award, has been given guidance by Messi over the past 18 months.

"What advice has he given me? I try to transmit the same humility as he does. Despite all he has done, he is a very simple man, and the advice he gives is always about keeping your feet on the ground," Fati said, talking to Barcelona's official website.

"It is a dream to play with the best player in the world and learn from him in training."

Fati did not name Messi as his role model - that honour instead went to brother Braima - but he did pick the Argentina international in his fantasy side, along with a group of former Barca stars and ex-Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo.

Asked to select five players, Fati said: "That would be Víctor Valdes, [Carles] Puyol, Xavi or Iniesta, Messi and Cristiano."

Fati is not expected to return for Barcelona until the start of next season, at which point he may be joined by fellow academy product Eric Garcia, who looks set to return to the club from Manchester City.

Garcia spent close to a decade in the Catalan giants' academy set-up and Fati has named the 20-year-old centre-back as his best team-mate.

"We have grown up together from a young age," Fati said. "We've played together and he helped me get better.

"He was very hard to dribble past, and we've been 'at war' since we were kids. We've also played together for Spain - we were always dreaming of this as kids."

Lionel Messi is only ensured to stay with Barcelona if the presidential elections are won by Joan Laporta, says the favourite for Sunday's vote.

Laporta is bidding to return to the top job at Camp Nou following a successful tenure between 2003 and 2010, which began with the signing of Ronaldinho and concluded amid Pep Guardiola's glorious era in charge.

The emergence of Messi as world football's pre-eminent superstar also happened during that period and Laporta feels his established relationship can help to patch things up between the club and their record goalscorer.

Messi sought to leave Barca after the end of last season and is yet to announce his intentions for when his contract expires in June, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain each linked to the 33-year-old.

Laporta was speaking at a debate alongside fellow candidates Victor Font and Toni Freixa on Tuesday.

Font believes his pledge to bring in Xavi as Barca coach would be persuasive for Messi, who he has earmarked for "a life contract", but Laporta primarily turned his attention towards Freixa, who worked under the presidencies of Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu when cracks in the relationship with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner started to appear.

"We will not be able to compete in money with other offers that [Messi] has," Laporta said.

"What he wants is to win again. I have a great relationship with Leo and he will value the proposal I make. 

"I am the only one who can ensure his continuity. If I don't win, I'm sure Leo won't continue at Barca. 

"He was not very happy with Freixa's time, when they let him see that he was expendable.

"My relationship with the Messi family has always been excellent."

Bartomeu's tenure, which ended in resignation last October after the Messi crisis was partially averted, was cast in an unsavoury light once more on Monday.

The former president was among four men arrested in relation to a raid on Barcelona's club offices by Catalan police, who are investigating possible economic crimes under Bartomeu's administration – reportedly in relation to the "Barcagate" scandal where a third party was allegedly paid to smear club greats including Messi and Guardiola.

The 58-year-old was provisionally released on Tuesday after spending a night in jail, appearing before a judge and exercising his right not to testify to charges of unfair administration and corruption in business.

Freixa expressed "sadness" and "surprise" that such matters should come to a head in election week, although Font went on the attack.

"[Bartomeu's arrest shows] the need and urgency to turn the page and build a new club model to prevent these things from happening," he said.

"We are talking about the possibility that a former president has used money from the entity to attack players and people around Barcelona, ​​including myself."

Laporta, arguably granted such a luxury by his strong position in the polls, opted to remain above the fray on the matter.

“We cannot prejudge or take advantage of this situation for our own benefit," he said.

"You have to let the process evolve. If responsibilities have to be clarified, we will do it."

Barcelona claimed a deserved 2-0 LaLiga win at Sevilla on Saturday in the first of the sides' two crunch clashes.

The Blaugrana will host Sevilla in their Copa del Rey semi-final second leg in midweek but first took care of business in the league thanks to strikes from Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi.

A display of similar dominance will now be required at Camp Nou, as Barca trail 2-0 from the first leg of their Copa tie.

Ronald Koeman's men will certainly not be short of confidence, though, after climbing to second, only two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid having played two games more.

[17:09] bensprattjourn (Guest)

Barca had initially lacked a focal point, playing a 3-5-2 formation without a natural striker, yet their unorthodox front two combined to great effect for the opener after 29 minutes.

As Messi dropped deep to collect the ball, Dembele tore away on the shoulder of the last defender and met a pinpoint pass to fire under Yassine Bounou.

That was the only moment of real quality in a low-key first half, but Barca twice in quick succession should have added to their advantage after the break.

Sergino Dest blasted against the post when the ball broke his way following a patent move, before Dembele raced away again and teed up Messi, who blazed over.

Clement Lenglet then had a header ruled out for offside, yet Messi settled any nerves as he played a smart one-two with Ilaix Moriba and prodded in the rebound when Bounou blocked his dinked attempt five minutes from the end.

Only an apparent injury to Ronald Araujo, 15 minutes after his return to action, put a dampener on Barca's day.

Lionel Messi is reportedly open to staying at Barcelona, but the LaLiga giants have work to do.

Messi, 33, stayed at Barca after sensationally requesting to leave ahead of this season.

But the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is out of contract at the end of the campaign, leading to more talk over his future.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI OPEN TO BARCELONA STAY

Messi is open to staying at Barcelona and is prioritising the sporting project over the economic offer, according to Marca.

The report says Barca strengthening their squad could convince Messi, who has been linked to Manchester City.

Signing City forward Sergio Aguero, Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland, Chelsea's N'Golo Kante or Liverpool's Roberto Firmino would help Barca's position in their bid to re-sign the superstar.

ROUND-UP

- With Real Madrid linked with a move for Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, such a deal could lead to questions over Eden Hazard. AS reports Mbappe joining Madrid could lead to an exit for Hazard, who has struggled with injuries since joining the LaLiga giants.

- Staying at Real Madrid and there is uncertainty over Raphael Varane's future. AS reports Madrid are prepared to listen to offers for Varane ahead of next season if they cannot agree to a new deal with the defender, who is out of contract in 2022. Manchester United have been linked with Varane, who is valued at £60.7million (€70m).

- Harry Kane has again starred for Tottenham this season. The Telegraph reports the forward, who is contracted until 2024, is set to stay at Spurs for at least another campaign.

- Amid suggestions Sevilla defender Jules Kounde is too expensive, Manchester United could look elsewhere. Eurosport reports Villarreal's Pau Torres may be a more realistic target due to his reported release clause of around £43m (€49.6m).

- Alexandre Lacazette seems set for an Arsenal exit. The Mirror reports Monaco are targeting the forward ahead of next season.

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman will not vote in elections to decide the next club president as he battles to show he should keep his job under the new regime.

Dutchman Koeman declared on Friday that he will not side with a particular candidate, with Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Antoni Freixa the three men vying for the post.

The election takes place on March 7 and its outcome could have a profound effect on Koeman's chances of getting a second season in charge.

His first campaign has been a struggle, with the club hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning Koeman has had to operate on a limited budget and with wranglings over pay cuts carrying on in the background.

The future of Lionel Messi is also up in the air, with the club's record goalscorer due to reach the end of his contract once this season finishes.

Koeman will watch and wait for the election results, but he told a news conference: "I do not vote because I am not someone who has to vote.

"Each one has his own story. Each candidate thinks that he is the best for the club. I have to wait to know the results. I have to wait and the members have to decide."

Once the successful candidate makes clear his plans for the club, Koeman will have more to say, but until then his focus is on getting results and ending an arduous February on a high note.

There have been LaLiga wins over Real Betis, Alaves and Elche, but it has been a month in which defeats to Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla in the first legs of the Champions League and Copa del Rey have hit Barcelona's trophy prospects.

Those ties remain retrievable, but Barcelona must go up several gears, starting with Saturday's league trip to Sevilla.

A 2-0 defeat at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium two and a half weeks ago must be quickly forgotten as Barcelona face a side battling alongside them in the top four to apply pressure on Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid.

Sevilla will travel to Camp Nou next Wednesday for the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg, but Koeman said of the double-header: "They are two different games. We must try to win both.

"We will know that in the Copa there is a 2-0 deficit and in LaLiga we must continue our streak, add and put pressure on those above us."

Barcelona have won 11 of their last 14 LaLiga matches, drawing the other three and last losing in early December to Cadiz.

It is the cup results that have hurt them, along with allowing Atletico Madrid to streak so far clear early in the league season that catching them remains a tall order for Barcelona.

Koeman said Barcelona's senior players, such as Lionel Messi, need to find support from the younger members of the squad.

"The older players have tried to take command but they cannot do it alone. They need help from others. The clearest example is that Leo [Messi] has 17 or 18 goals and the rest of the forwards together have more or less the same number," Koeman said.

"He needs help from the others. The responsibility must lie with the whole team."

Koeman, who left his role as Netherlands head coach to return to the club he graced as a player, may need a trophy to sustain his stay, even though his contract runs through to the end of next season.

Asked about the prospect of finishing without a title this season, Koeman said he always took a positive view and focused on winning rather than losing.

"I know that being a Barca coach implies that there is always a lot of pressure," he said. "If you don't win or lose matches, the culprit is the coach."

Lionel Messi was not among the veteran Barcelona stars Ronald Koeman called on to step up prior to Wednesday's win against Elche, the coach insists.

Barca headed into the match at Camp Nou having endured consecutive disappointing results in their previous two games, losing 4-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League and then conceding a late equaliser to Cadiz in a 1-1 draw.

While Koeman has come to rely heavily on teenagers Pedri and Francisco Trincao this season, it was the more experienced players he demanded more from in his pre-match news conference on Tuesday.

That would presumably include Messi, the team's 33-year-old captain, but Koeman explained after overseeing a 3-0 victory that he had not been referring to his talisman.

Messi moved up a gear anyway, scoring with two of his three shots, creating a further chance and playing a role in the build-up to Jordi Alba's clinching goal.

The Barca number 10 certainly could not be questioned after increasing his 2021 tally to 13 goals in all competitions, the most of any player in Europe's 'top five' leagues.

"When I talk about veterans, I don't mean him," Koeman said. "Leo continues to score many goals.

"Others have to make a difference, not Messi. He continues to score, as he has shown today."

Messi was not immediately joined in lifting Barca's level as Trincao attempted the hosts' only two shots in the first half, their lowest tally in the opening 45 minutes of a home game this season.

Koeman had no issue then with Messi making his frustration clear during a tetchy first period.

"Everyone has seen that we lacked intensity and rhythm of the ball, especially," the coach explained. "It is good that Messi, as captain, asks for intensity."

Seven attempts followed after the interval, with all three of those on target hitting the net, while Koeman ended an eight-match run without a clean sheet.

"It was good," Koeman said. "The lack of rhythm was not due to a lack of attitude.

"Sometimes the opposition make things not go the way you want. We are human. The team has shown personality and desire."

Still third but now within five points of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, Koeman was hopeful the mood in the Blaugrana camp would improve with the much-needed victory.

"Surely, having won today, tomorrow will be different," he said. "It is normal [to be upset] if you drop two points against Cadiz when it was time to cut back those at the top.

"You have to close this bad feeling with good games and good results."

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