Barcelona’s new signing Miralem Pjanic said at his unveiling on Tuesday he could never imagine Lionel Messi playing for another club.
Messi claimed earlier this month he had been forced to stay at Barca after he and the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu disagreed over a clause in his contract.
Manchester City were favourites to capitalise and it remains possible Messi leaves next summer when his contract expires and he can go for free.
“I could never see Messi playing in another shirt,” said Pjanic, whose move from Juventus was confirmed in June. “For me it was impossible and I always thought everything would eventually work out.
“My hope was to play with him. I met Messi two or three days ago but I haven’t yet been able to train or play with him. I have been lucky enough to play with players like Cristiano Ronaldo and (Francesco) Totti but I want to enjoy playing with this whole team.
“All 25 of us will be important and I believe in the spirit of the group.”
Pjanic’s transfer from Juve to Barcelona was part of a financial operation involving Arthur Melo going the other way, allowing both clubs to boost their profit figures for the year.
Barca said they paid 60 million euros ($67.4m) plus a potential five million euros in bonuses for the Bosnian playmaker while Juventus would pay 72 million euros plus 10 million in variables for Arthur.
“Leaving Juve was difficult,” said Pjanic. “I have left an incredible club but a footballer always wants to grow and have new challenges. After nine years in Italy I needed new goals and Barca was my dream.”
Sitting alongside Pjanic was Barcelona’s new sporting director Ramon Planes, who was asked about the future of Luis Suarez.
Suarez was not included in Ronald Koeman’s squad on Saturday for a friendly against Gimnastic Tarragona, with the club keen for the Uruguayan to leave.
“Luis has been an important player for Barca in recent years and for this he deserves the utmost respect,” said Planes.
“Since the end of the season we have been fully involved in a process of change, with the coach and our ideas.
“But we must respect, above all, the players and their contracts. Until October 5, when the market is closed, everything can happen.”
Suarez has been linked with Juventus but reportedly wants Barcelona to pay him the value of the remaining one year on his contract.
Arturo Vidal is also expected to leave, with the midfielder nearing a move to Inter Milan. “Negotiations are well advanced,” said Planes.