Wed | Nov 20, 2019

Barca prepare for life after Messi

Published:Sunday | November 10, 2019 | 12:41 AM
Messi
Messi

BARCELONA, Spain (AP):

Even though Lionel Messi is still going strong, Barcelona’s club president has already started to look ahead to that unwanted day when the club’s all-time great steps off the Camp Nou field for the very last time.

Josep Bartomeu told The Associated Press in an interview that “we are preparing this post-Messi era.”

“In the next coming two or three seasons, our leader will continue to be Leo Messi,” Bartomeu said at Camp Nou Stadium. “But it’s true that there are other young players who are coming.

Players coming from abroad, but also players coming from our La Masia (academy). And we are very happy because we are preparing this post-Messi era.”

Messi is Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer with 609 goals in 697 games and has led them to 34 trophies. He remains the team’s undisputed leader, their best scorer and passer of the ball. His place in the hearts of Barcelona’s fans is only shared by Johan Cruyff, the former player and coach credited with establishing Barcelona’s attacking style that Messi has exploited to perfection.

TRANSITION PLAN

While confident over the future, Bartomeu and fans also have concerns over how the Catalan club will cope when the 32-year-old Messi starts to slow down. Bartomeu said that goal No. 1 for the club’s transition plan is to ensure that Messi retires in a Barca shirt, and also stays linked to them after his playing days are over.

“Leo Messi’s contract finishes in 2021. But surely it will be the will of all parties involved, if he feels strong and with ambition, to extend this contract indefinitely,” Bartomeu said.

“I always make a comparison with Pele. Pele was a man of a single club (in Brazil) ... I have no doubts that after Messi finishes his career as footballer, he will remain linked to this club for the rest of his life.”

With striker Luis Suárez, defender Gerard Pique and midfielder Sergio Busquets all over 30, Barcelona are faced with the task of replacing a generation of winners.

Bartomeu cannot run for re-election in 2021 when his term runs out according to club regulations. To lay the foundation for the club’s future, he has brought in players to complement their home-grown talent.

Bartomeu said that while having big hopes for Antoine Griezmann and academy product Ansu Fati, he is confident that Netherlands midfielder Frenkie de Jong “is going to establish an era of his own at Barca” and carry on their emphasis on strong midfield players who are precision passers.