Are Barcelona Prepared for Life After Messi?
January 31, 2018
In some ways, the idea of Barcelona being without the talismanic Lionel Messi is truly unfathomable.
After all, the identities of these two footballing giants have been inseparable for more than a decade now, ever since the Argentine’s breakthrough season in 2006/07.
It cannot be denied that Barcelona will one day have to cope without the fleet-of-foot Messi, however, while this time is inching closer with every passing year. The Argentinian forward will turn 31 this summer, for example, while it’s impossible to determine how long he can continue to torment defences at the very highest level.
In this article, we’ll ask how Barca are preparing for the future without their talisman, and look at the other potential signings that they may need to make in the future.
Timeless Messi – But Barcelona are Already Building for the Future
It seems strange to talk about a future without Messi, particularly given how influential he remains within the Barcelona team. After all, he’s plundered 27 goals in 32 appearances for the Catalan club this season so far, while providing a further 12 assists. This followed a haul of 54 goals in 52 appearances last season, as Messi continued to shine while Barcelona faltered.
Still, the challenge of replacing Messi is a gargantuan one, while it has been further complicated by Neymar’s stunning £200 million move to PSG last summer. After all, the Brazilian forward had long since been groomed as the heir apparent to Messi, with the 25-year old highly thought of by those in charge at the club. With his sudden departure, however, the club suddenly had to change direction and consider an alternative future without either the mercurial Messi or the brilliant Neymar.
In fairness, the club has reacted decisively, signing the talented younger winger Ousmane Dembele and Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho in combined deals worth a hefty £238.8 million during the last four months. At 20 and 25 years old respectively, these signings have been completed with the future in mind, while they seem to provide indirect replacements for both Messi and his fellow La Masia graduate Andres Iniesta.
These could prove to be seminal signings, although only time will tell whether they can fill the huge boots left behind by the predecessors.
Have Barcelona Identified a Direct Replacement for Messi?
While both Dembele and Coutinho will bring a myriad of attacking skills to the Nou Camp, neither can match the guile, quality or goalscoring consistency of Messi. This is why eventually replacing the forward is such as challenging pastime, as the Argentine boasts a truly unique skill-set and is widely acknowledged as being the best player of his generation.
With this in mind, further reinforcements will be required if Barcelona are to evolve successfully without Messi. More specifically, the club may need to consider identifying a direct replacement for the Argentine, and one who can be successfully developed and moulded in the striker’s unique image.
Perhaps the most obvious candidate is Juventus’ 24-year old wizard Paulo Dybala, who is often considered as the heir apparent to Messi at both club and international level. In fact, Dybala was tipped for a move to the Nou Camp after Neymar’s departure last summer, only for club officials to allegedly rule out any potential deal due to his perceived “incompatibility” with Barca’s famed number 10.
This makes perfect sense in some regards, of course, but if Barca do have a desire to sign Dybala in the future they are playing a risky game. After all, Dybala undoubtedly remains a work in progress at present, as he continues to combine moments of brilliance with periods of inactivity during games. He would also need time to adapt to Barca’s unique style of play and his brand new surroundings at the Nou Camp, as this would enable him to step confidently out of Messi’s shadow when the legendary hitman finally stands down.
The Last Word
Make no mistake; Dybala represents the true heir apparent to Messi, while he’s a player that could lead Barca into a brave, new future alongside Dembele and Coutinho.
Dybala needs further development if he is to become Messi’s equal, however, while Barca cannot just assume that he will be available to buy in one, two or three years’ time.
This means that we may see the club make a move for Dybala sooner rather than later, particularly if Messi’s considerable star begins to wane during the next year or so.