The Hard Tackle takes a look at some of the key stories regarding Barcelona from the day.

Barcelona host Real Madrid on Saturday in what is their most important match of the season so far, but before the crunch clash here’s a roundup of everything happening in and around Camp Nou.

Xavi: Messi will sign a new contract

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi prepares to shoot a corner kick during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 13, 2016. (Photo credit - Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images)

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi prepares to shoot a corner kick during the UEFA Champions League football match FC Barcelona vs Celtic FC at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on September 13, 2016. (Photo credit – Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images)

Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez has had his say on Lionel Messi’s contract situation at the club, and the former Spain international insists that the Argentine wizard will sign a new contract with the Blaugrana. He even went on to add that he believes Messi will end his career at Camp Nou.

Speaking to Spanish radio Cadena Cope, Xavi said: “I’m in contact with Messi and I see him happy. I haven’t spoken to him about his contact extension but he knows that Barcelona is the best club in the world for him and I don’t see him in any other club. If I had to bet, I wouldn’t [bet] on seeing Messi in another club.”

Messi’s current deal with Barcelona runs till the end of the 2017/18 season, and recent reports have linked Messi with a move away from Camp Nou once his contract runs out. Several reports last month also suggested that Messi could refuse to extend his current contract. With the Argentina captain’s future at Barcelona hanging in the balance, his next move is sure to be under severe scrutiny.

Barcelona’s Ronaldo pursuit

MADRID, SPAIN - NOVEMBER 26: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring Real's 2nd goal from during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Sporting de Gijon at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 26, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

MADRID, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 26: Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid celebrates after scoring Real’s 2nd goal from during the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Sporting de Gijon at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on November 26, 2016 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta has sensationally claimed that the club had nearly signed the now-Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, before he eventually joined Manchester United in 2003. Laporta, who was in his first year of his eight-year reign as the Barcelona president then, said that Manchester United priced the club out of the move for Ronaldo.

Speaking to Marca, Laporte said: “We had signed Ronaldinho, Marquez and Quaresma. [Ronaldo] was at Sporting at the time, before Manchester United, and we were speaking with his agent who wanted to sell us Deco. We said that we couldn’t because we weren’t able to [spend that much at the time], so he told us he had another really good kid. It was Ronaldo. He had a deal with United for €19 million, but we were offered him for €17m.”

Ronaldo went on to enjoy a stellar career with Manchester United, winning the Premier League thrice, as well as a UEFA Champions League with the Red Devils. He also won his first Ballon d’Or while at Old Trafford before sealing the then-world record transfer to Barcelona’s fierce rivals Real Madrid in 2009. With Messi and Ronaldo regarded as the two best players of this generation, one can only imagine how dominant Barcelona could have been if the two managed to play alongside each other for the club.

The return of Andres Iniesta

Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has confirmed that club captain Andres Iniesta is fit for the visit of Real Madrid and is set to return to action on Saturday. The Spain international had been missing in action since October, when he suffered a knee ligament injury in the 3-2 win over Valencia.

Speaking in his pre-match press conference, the Barcelona boss said: “The biggest news is that we’re getting [Andres] Iniesta back, which has extra importance since he’s our captain. If there’s one player who helps most with our style, it’s him.”

Iniesta was initially expected to be sidelined for eight weeks, when it looked like he would be unable to return for the much-awaited El Clasico on time. He, however, returned to training ahead of schedule last week, and an early comeback looked increasingly possible. His return on Saturday will provide a huge boost to Barcelona, who have been looking for more control in midfield in recent games.

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