Luis Enrique hopes Lionel Messi will stay at Barcelona despite the five-time Ballon d'Or being yet to sign a new deal with the Nou Camp outfit. The Spanish boss also revealed Javier Mascherano and Arda Turan could make their long-awaited returns when relegation-threatened Sporting Gijon visit the Nou Camp on Wednesday night (1 March).
Messi, 29, once again proved his importance for Luis Enrique's side at the weekend, scoring a 86th minute winner in the 2-1 victory over Atletico Madrid, which helped Barcelona keep the heat on Real Madrid in the La Liga run-in.
The Argentina international has scored 35 goals in 35 appearances for the La Liga giants this season, but his long-term future at the club remain uncertain amid delays in negotiations over a new deal. His current contract is set to expire in the summer of 2018.
Luis Enrique has admitted Messi is vital for Barcelona and hopes he will remain so for the foreseeable future.
"He's the best player in the world and it's only natural to rely on him. Let's hope we can rely on him for many years to come," Luis Enrique said in a press conference ahead of the visit of Sporting Gijon.
The Barcelona boss also provided positive injury news after confirming Mascherano and Turan could be back ahead of a busy week, one that sees the Catalans face Sporting Gijon, Celta Vigo and Paris Saint-Germain in the space of eight days.
"Mascherano and Arda have trained with the rest of the squad today and tomorrow the medical staff will confirm if they are available or not," said Luis Enrique. Both players have missed the last four matches, against Alaves, PSG, Leganes and Atletico Madrid.
Barcelona have seen their hopes of retaining the La Liga title boosted following Real Madrid's loss to Valencia and their own vital win at Atletico Madrid. Luis Enrique has urged his side to continue their good run against his hometown side on Wednesday, as Los Blancos are still one point ahead with one game in hand.
"I have been a Sporting fan since the day I was born and I always wish them the best, but tomorrow I want all three points," the boss said, pointing out his former side have vastly improved since new manager Rubi took over at Pitu Abelardo last month.
"Sporting have changed tactically all over the field and now perhaps they are more attacking. They are a dangerous side, as are all the sides down the bottom of the table because time is running out in the battle against relegation."