Messi hails Lautaro as an 'impressive striker' as Barcelona rumours continue

Lionel Messi says that long-rumoured Barcelona target Lautaro Martinez is an "impressive striker" as the Inter star continues to be linked to the La Liga side.

The 22-year-old Argentina has been linked with Barca for several months, having scored 16 goals in 31 games for Inter this season.

As a result of his standout campaign in Serie A,  Martinez has been selected by Barca as their top priority this summer and the Catalan side is ready to offer the 22-year-old a contract worth €10 million (£9m/$11m) a year.

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Barca boss Quique Setien said in April that he was "not pessimistic nor optimistic" about a deal getting done, and speculation over a transfer has only grown in the weeks since.

While Messi says he's unsure if those rumours are true, the Barca star says he'd be excited to play alongside his countryman at the Camp Nou.

"If I'm honest I don't know very well if there were or are negotiations right now, I have no idea," Messi told Mundo Deportivo. 

"I think I already mentioned it, that Lautaro is an impressive striker, especially because I think he is a very complete forward. 

"He is strong, he dribbles well, he scores goals, he knows how to protect the ball ...But well, we will have to see what happens finally with him and with other players."

It's not the first time that Messi has spoken about his admiration for the Inter star, as the Barcelona icon hailed Lautaro as " very complete" back in February.

Luis Suarez, the man the striker would be signed to eventually replace, has also given his stamp of approval, saying that Lautaro is "very talented".

The Uruguayan went on to say that it was vital for Barcelona to bring in a young striker soon, as Suarez says he understands that his days as the club's top forward are numbered.

With the current season still postponed due to the coronavirus, Barca sit atop La Liga through 27 matches.

Barca currently maintain a two-point lead over rivals Real Madrid as well as an 11-point advantage over third-place Sevilla.

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