Messi will be impossible to replace, says Barcelona president Bartomeu

By Sports Desk December 09, 2019

Barcelona will find it impossible to replace Lionel Messi, according to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who added Pep Guardiola would always be welcome back at Camp Nou.

Messi followed up winning a record sixth Ballon d'Or by recording his 35th LaLiga hat-trick in Barca's 5-2 win over Real Mallorca on Saturday.

Despite spending big on Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong in the most recent transfer window, Barca are still heavily reliant on the 32-year-old, who has scored 14 goals from 15 appearances in all competitions this term.

Bartomeu has acknowledged Barca will find it extremely difficult to replace Messi whenever the forward calls time on his stay at the club, but outlined their intention to continue developing young talent from the famed La Masia academy. 

"We Barca fans have the good fortune to enjoy Messi every three days," Bartomeu, who plans to offer Messi a "lifetime contract" told Italian publication La Repubblica.

"Leo is impossible to replace and when he will be here no more, we will be forced to play differently. I cannot say that we are already preparing for post-Messi, but it is true that we have already decided to bet on young players for a long time.

"For now, what we have to do is not worry, but enjoy it. I would like to make him an annuity contract as we have already done with [Andres] Iniesta. He has earned the right to decide when to say enough is enough.

"As a footballer, Messi is number one and we will fully understand it only in a few years, because Leo has changed not only the history of Barca, but that of world football."

Bartomeu also confirmed Guardiola - who left Barca in 2012 after four trophy-laden seasons in charge before going on to coach Bayern Munich and now Manchester City, will always have a home at Barca, should he wish to return. 

"A possible return of Guardiola? It doesn't depend on me," he added. 

"It was Pep who decided to leave, but for him the doors of Barca are always open." 

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    For the Barcelona players and staff, there was nowhere to hide in the glare of the Estadio da Luz. 

    An unprecedented, unmitigated, humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Friday laid bare the serious malfunctioning of one of the world's grandest clubs. 

    President Josep Maria Bartomeu has already confirmed that "announcements will be made" next week, likely beginning with the future of coach Quique Setien, but Barca's problems run far deeper, from the boardroom to the dressing room. 

    "Nobody is safe," said Gerard Pique after the match. "It is not the first time, the second time or the third time, it's very tough. I hope it is useful for something." 

    The defender needs nobody to tell him that significant changes must be made at Camp Nou and he himself offered to leave for the good of the club. Ironically, such a public admission suggests he is the kind of character Barca need to keep. 

    Who, then, are the people who should go if Barca are to become great again? 

    THE BOARD

    Josep Maria Bartomeu

    The buck stops with the president. Bartomeu survived those infamous nights in Rome and Liverpool, but Lisbon must surely be the beginning of the end for a man who has presided over a wretched, expensive decline. Victor Font is presently the only rival candidate for the 2021 elections, if we get there.

    Javier Bordas

    Bordas is the director in charge of the football first team at Barca and, regardless of the presidency, it is only right that a new figurehead is put in place to oversee the rebuild.

    THE EXECUTIVES

    Eric Abidal

    Barca's first-team technical secretary came under pressure after a public falling-out with Lionel Messi this year, and his job now looks untenable.  It's essential Barca appoint someone who can repair the damaged relations between the board and the players. Carles Puyol has been touted as a good candidate for the role, including by Messi. 

    Oscar Grau

    As CEO, Grau is the beating heart of Barcelona's operations and he cannot escape blame for the way the football project has been run in recent years. Speculation has seen Sevilla's Monchi linked with the role.

    THE COACHES

    Quique Setien

    The problems ran deeper than Ernesto Valverde and sacking his successor will likewise not solve everything, but watching him lean against the Luz dugout, silent and stewing, made it abundantly clear that he cannot fix this team. Mauricio Pochettino is available and, despite past reservations, he seems willing to put aside his Espanyol loyalty.

    Eder Sarabia

    Setien's assistant would almost certainly follow him out of the door. Sarabia looks to have struggled to get the players to buy into the boss' demands and it would not make much sense to stay.

    THE SQUAD

    Martin Braithwaite

    Barca were given special dispensation to sign Braithwaite from Leganes due to injury, while Leganes were denied the same option. They were relegated, Barca's season ended in infamy, and Braithwaite was not even eligible to play. West Ham are apparently interested.

    Philippe Coutinho

    Coutinho came off the bench to score twice and assist another for Bayern against Barca, the Catalans having loaned out their €140million-plus man after becoming unconvinced by his form. You'd struggle to imagine a more damning visual indictment of Barca's transfer policy.

    The coronavirus pandemic has hampered spending across the continent, but any moderate fee for the Brazilian would help Barca to build for the future.

    Rafinha

    Rafinha has played eight league games in three years for Barca, spending most of that time on loan at Inter and Celta. Now 27, it's time they cash in. Everton and Wolves have been linked. 

    Ivan Rakitic

    Unfairly maligned by a section of the fanbase, Rakitic has probably reached the point where a move is in everyone's best interests. He has declined since helping Croatia to the 2018 World Cup final and, despite insisting he will stay, a return to Sevilla would ease the burden on the Barca wage bill and help to bring down the squad's average age.

    Nelson Semedo

    Right-back has been a problem position since Dani Alves left in 2015, and Semedo's performance against Bayern made it clear that he is not the long-term solution. Manchester City had been linked, although Pep Guardiola will surely have been put off by Friday's viewing.

    Jean-Clair Todibo

    He's only 20 and has played four times in LaLiga, but selling Todibo would be a simple way for Barca to raise desperately needed funds. Schalke, who signed him on loan in January, had a €25m purchase option.

    Samuel Umtiti

    Barca were terrified of losing the centre-back in the wake of Neymar's Paris Saint-Germain move, with Umtiti's release clause at just €60m. Since that buyout price was increased to €500m, Umtiti has been undermined by injuries, inconsistency and coaching changes at Camp Nou, but he could still command a decent fee.

    Arturo Vidal

    One of the few players who has impressed under Setien, Vidal is 33 and should not really be part of the Barca rebuild. His contract is up next year, so now is the time to sell to earn even a small fee.

    Moussa Wague

    Nice chose not to activate their purchase option on the full-back, but he remains a sellable asset for Barca, who are unlikely to use him in the first team next season.

  • Guardiola can enhance Man City legacy with Champions League win - Cole Guardiola can enhance Man City legacy with Champions League win - Cole

    Pep Guardiola can enhance his Manchester City legacy by guiding the club to Champions League glory, according to former Arsenal and Chelsea full-back Ashley Cole.

    City beat Spanish champions Real Madrid 2-1 in last week's last-16 second leg to seal a 4-2 aggregate victory and advance through to the final-eight mini tournament in Lisbon.

    Lyon are up next in Saturday's quarter-final clash as City look to reach the last four for just a second time, where Bayern Munich await after their 8-2 demolition of another of Guardiola's former teams, Barcelona.

    Cole is a big fan of Guardiola's work and believes more silverware could follow should the Catalan coach end his nine-year wait for a third Champions League trophy.

    But the Chelsea academy coach also warned Guardiola may use the opportunity to bow out in style, having already won a clean sweep of domestic honours at the Etihad Stadium.

    "He's done a great job at Man City in terms of transformation," Cole told Stats Perform News.

    "He's got them playing beautiful, attacking football with an understanding of rotation and it's good on the eye.

    "But who knows? If he wins the Champions League, you never know what might happen.

    "As a football fan and someone who enjoys watching City play, I'd of course love Pep to stay and continue the legacy he has started and keep fighting for trophies."

    However, Lyon took four points off City in last season's knockout stage and dumped Italian champions Juventus out of this year's competition in the first knockout stage.

    And Cole, who spent two seasons playing under Lyon boss Rudi Garcia at Roma, says City cannot look past the contest at the Estadio Jose Alvalade.

    "Some people might say it's an easy task for Man City, but Lyon have come through some difficult games," he said.

    "To beat Juventus over two legs and qualify shows the quality they have. I know the quality Rudi Garcia has - tactically he is very aware, so it will be a very tough game for Man City.

    "It's not an easy task for City and I think this will be a very difficult game. Anyone can win it.

    "Lyon have some very dangerous players. I think Lyon could win, Man City could win."

  • Rumour Has It: Barca to sack Setien, Man Utd pursuing Atletico's Saul Rumour Has It: Barca to sack Setien, Man Utd pursuing Atletico's Saul

    Goodbye Quique Setien?

    Barcelona's Champions League horror show against Bayern Munich is reportedly the final straw for the club's hierarchy.

    Who will replace the former Real Betis boss at Camp Nou?

     

    TOP STORY – BARCA TO SACK SETIEN

    Barcelona have decided to sack head coach Quique Setien, according to journalist Fabrizio Romano.

    LaLiga giants Barca were humiliated in the Champions League quarter-finals on Friday following an 8-2 defeat to Bundesliga holders Bayern Munich.

    Barca have already decided Setien – who replaced Ernesto Valverde in January – will not continue in 2020-21, and former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino has already been linked, while club great Xavi and Massimiliano Allegri are other possible options.

     

    ROUND-UP

    - The Star reports Manchester United are eyeing Atletico Madrid star Saul Niguez. United have been linked to the Spain international previously and are believed to be ready to revive their interest.

    - Staying at Old Trafford and the Evening Standard says United remain in talks with Borussia Dortmund regarding Jadon Sancho. Dortmund insist Sancho will not leave the Bundesliga side, though United are reportedly still in negotiations for the England international. Meanwhile, Outlet Republika in Serbia claims United have agreed to sign teenage sensation Filip Stevanovic from Partizan Belgrade before loaning him back to the capital club.

    - Hella Verona defender Marash Kumbulla wants to join Inter, Sky Sport Italia claims. Kumbulla has been linked to Napoli, Lazio and Juventus.

    Bayern Munich want to keep loanee Ivan Perisic, according to Sky Sport Italia. Perisic has spent the season on loan from Inter and Bayern are hoping to negotiate a permanent deal.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to remain at Milan and could soon sign a new contract with the Rossoneri, reports Calciomercato.

    - Foot Mercato claims Barca could consider re-signing Thiago Alcantara from Bayern. Thiago, who left Barca in 2013, has been tipped to join Liverpool, while Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City have emerged as possible destinations.

    Arsenal are planning to sign Thomas Partey from Atletico following the arrival of William, reports The Daily Star.

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