Barcelona striker Luis Suarez hopes teammate Lionel Messi will follow his lead by signing a long-term contract to see out the remainder of his prime years at the Camp Nou.
Suarez celebrated a new five-year deal by scoring twice in a 4-1 rout of Espanyol on Sunday as Barca closed to within three points of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga.
However, the Uruguayan was still overshadowed by a series of astonishing moves from Messi as he wriggled through Espanyol defenders at will before finally sealing his display with Barca’s fourth goal a minute from time.
Messi only has 18 months left on his current Barca deal.
“He is a big boy and knows what he has to decide,” Suarez told Spanish TV channel Movistar.
“He also knows where he is happy and we hope for everyone’s benefit he stays here, but he is the one that has to take the decision.”
The reason Barca will be desperate to cling onto the five-time World Player of the Year was clear once more in one particular moment of brilliance as Messi weaved his way through five Espanyol defenders before his shot was saved and Suarez swept home the rebound for his second of the night and 12th of the season to move level with Messi as La Liga’s top scorer.
“Leo’s move (for the second goal) is a PlayStation move from a unique player that only he can do,” added Suarez.
– Christmas break –
Despite Barca’s upturn in form in recent weeks, Real Madrid still maintain a firm grip on the title race as they also have a game in hand to go with their three-point lead as they weren’t in La Liga action this weekend.
Instead, Real were at the Club World Cup where they extended a club record unbeaten run to 37 games with a 4-2 win over Japanese champions Kashima Antlers after extra-time thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick.
Barca boss Luis Enrique admitted Real’s early season form has been tough to live with.
However, Enrique is hopeful of a similar spring slump from Madrid to that which Barca suffered last year in losing three straight La Liga games in April as the demands of travelling to Japan for Club World Cup duty took their toll.
“What interests us now are the six months left of the season and the objective is to get back to winning more titles,” said Enrique.
“To do that we are on the right course. Perhaps in La Liga we are not in the position we would like, but we have to accept Real Madrid are posting spectacular numbers and we haven’t been as consistent at home as we are used to.
“There is still a long way to go. Last year showed what can happen in the final weeks of the season and we will give it everything until the end.”
Enrique also confirmed he has given an early Christmas break to Messi, Suarez, Neymar and Gerard Pique, ruling all four out of Wednesday’s Copa del Rey last 32, second leg clash with Hercules despite the tie being finely balanced at 1-1.