At this point it is impossible to say when Spanish giants Barcelona might find their answer for Neymar; perhaps a solution lies in Paris, where Neymar plays alongside five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
Not only has Messi starred for Barcelona, four times winning the Uefa Champions League (in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016) but on a regular basis he has racked up goals, almost always for club and country.
In last season’s Champions League Messi was perhaps less influential than in the previous one, but he scored the winning goal in the final against Juventus on 14 May to secure Barcelona’s fifth title in a row, and second in three years.
Messi told CNN’s Emiliano Petit: “I’ve been playing here for a long time and I love the way things are here.
“The coach tells us what we need to do on the pitch, of course. I’m also a very experienced player now, I’ve won a lot. There are a lot of players that I could give advice to, but I don’t have to give advice because I’ve been through a lot and now I’m just giving you the experience. But I love here, everything about this club.”
He added: “We win, we lose – obviously when we lose it’s really tough, but when we win, I love to celebrate. When the team is doing really well it’s a pleasure to see the players celebrate with you.”
Existing in a sort of twilight zone between the best team in the world and an emerging one, Barcelona have been defended from criticism regarding a perceived lack of investment in the youth set-up, despite always making a beeline for the best young talent in Europe, including Luis Suarez, Messi, Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves and Xavi.
But Messi says that while Barcelona have spent more on ‘bigger projects’ than the competition around them has – noting Jürgen Klopp, the coach of Klopp’s Reds, may be talking up Liverpool’s prospects of a triumphant return to Uefa’s elite club competition – they have put plenty of effort into developing players within their ranks.
“Even if we have worked with other coaches, who has worked with younger players and things have not been going the right way, we know that we have to train these players to the top because this is very important for the club.”
The extent of that training is now paying off. Victory in France has put them on a collision course with Manchester City, one of the few team in Europe to have enjoyed a similarly easy ride of it this season, and who have been torn apart by Toni Kroos’ free kick in the semi-final against Real Madrid.
“We just need to take it like one game at a time,” Messi added. “We have been through tough moments before but we’ve managed to get through them, and now we’ve qualified we’ll just take it one game at a time.”
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