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Lionel Messi is only at Barcelona because of "deathbed" vow to Tito Vilanova, says Henk Ten Cate; The four-time world player of the year has fallen out with Camp Nou boss Luis Enrique and started on the bench for Sunday's 1-0 defeat at Real Sociedad.

Byline: Neil McLeman

Lionel Messi is only still at Barcelona because of a "deathbed" promise to former coach Tito Vilanova, a former Camp Nou assistant has claimed.

And Henk Ten Cate said the Argentine superstar should now leave the Catalan club for the good of his career.

The Dutchman was Frank Rijkaard's No 2 at the Nou Camp between 2003 and 2006.

And he told Dutch newspaper Der Telegraaf: "As far as I know these problems started around two years ago. Messi is only at Barcelona because of a promise he made to [former boss] Tito Vilanova on his deathbed.

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"However, I think a transfer would be in everyone's best interests because Leo has been with Barca quite a while and needs a new challenge."

Vilanova passed away in April last year at the age of 45 after a battle with cancer.

Messi, who has a [euro]250m ([pounds sterling]195.8m) buyout clause in his contract, has now fallen out with new boss Luis Enrique which has attracted the interest of big clubs around Europe.

Ten Cate added: "At the moment he is worth a lot of money but his value will only start to decrease from now. I really want to be supportive as he's been at another level for 10 years, but I'm not sure he'll ever get back to his best.

"It's not normal to shine like he has done. Most big names can only sustain it for seven or eight years and, to be truthful, he wasn't at his best last season either, even if the statistics were still great."

Would Lionel Messi be able to perform on a cold, wet and windy Monday night in Stoke?

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Title Annotation:Sport,Football,News
Publication:Daily Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Jan 8, 2015
Words:299
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