By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Sevilla president Pepe Castro said on Tuesday he expects coveted coach Jorge Sampaoli to remain at the club next season, shrugging off reports that Barcelona are interested in hiring the Argentine for the vacant Camp Nou job.
In his debut campaign in European soccer, former Chile coach Sampaoli has secured Sevilla's best ever points total in the first half of a season and led them to a three-way tilt for the Spanish title with Real Madrid and Barcelona.
He could also take the team to the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time if they get past Leicester City in the second leg of their last 16 tie on Tuesday.
Those achievements, and the thrilling style of play his side have served up, have won Sampaoli admirers and led to reports he could succeed Luis Enrique at Barcelona next campaign.
But Castro said he believed the coach, whose current deal runs until June 2018, would remain loyal to Sevilla.
"I trust that Sampaoli will say yes to the offer we have made him to extend his contract for one more year, but we're focused on a complicated week," he told radio station Cadena Ser on Tuesday.
"We don't have to think about Barca or anyone else. He's said very clearly that he came here because we were the club that had faith in him to bring him across the pond and that he's very happy at Sevilla."
Luis Enrique announced earlier in the month he will leave Barcelona at the end of this season. Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde has also said he will quit in the summer.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Catherine Evans)