Lionel Messi would understand if Javier Mascherano decides to leave Barcelona during the upcoming January transfer window in order to secure more regular time somewhere else.

Mascherano, 33, played a crucial role during his early years at the Nou Camp following his arrival from Liverpool in the summer of 2010.

The versatile centre-back helped Barcelona win the Champions League twice as well as four La Liga titles but he has seen his playing time restricted since the arrival of Samuel Umtiti during the summer of 2016.

The Argentina international has amitted he will consider leaving Barcelona at the end of the current season despite having contract at the club until 2019.

But reports in Spain over the weekend revealed that Mascherano had decided to bring forward that decision to the upcoming January transfer window as he wants to secure regular time in order to arrive at the 2018 World Cup in a good form.

Barcelona are trying to convince the player to reconsider his plans with Umtiti having been ruled out for around two months due to a hamstring injury sustained during the weekend's 2-1 victory over Celta Vigo.

Earlier this week Ernesto Valverde said that he hoped Mascherano will stay until the summer after pointing out that the player remains committed to Barcelona.

"I cannot consider conversations when they have not happened," Valverde said when asked whether he had spoken with Mascherano about his decision. "He is committed and we count on him. I do not care about anything else.

"The winter market has not arrived yet and we have been talking about it since August. When the transfer window comes, we will speak about it.

"Mascherano is our player and we count on him. We are happy with him and we just want him to recover soon from his injury. He is committed to Barça and has been demonstrating that for a long time."

But on Wednesday (6 December) Mundo Deportivo reported that Mascherano remains firm in his intention to leave with an unnamed club from the Chinese Super League ready to pay €5m (£4.4m, $5.9m) to lure him away from Barcelona.

Messi admits that he has spoken with Mascherano about his potential exit and will back whatever his international compatriot decides.

"I understand [if he decides to leave] and I talked to him about it," Messi told TyC Sport. "I am not going to say what he told me but I understand that he wants to play more. He is in his last year [and a half of his contract] and wants to play more.

"He wants to end up playing and not being on the bench, even if it is the one of Barcelona. Obviously I understand him. The most beautiful thing is to play and enjoy the games. He sees that he does not have that possibility here, that he hasn't got the minutes that he wants and and it is understandable that he wants to go and look for them elsewhere.

"We're both going to miss each other [if he leaves]. We have been many years together both here [at Barcelona] and in the national team. But I understand his situation and obviously I respect him. If he decides [to leave] is fine."