Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has insisted that Lionel Messi is nowhere near retirement, adding he could play on until he is 45 years old.
Currently 31, many have begun to contemplate life after Messi for Barcelona, and that question was again asked after he played a starring role in the 3-0 win over Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final. The Argentine netted twice, including a stunning free kick, to give the Blaugrana one foot in the final.
He said: "[Messi] has so much football still to give. I still think [his retirement] is a long way off. He’s only 31. Look at the power in that free kick. He’s a long way out and that ball really flies. He’s stronger than ever.
"I hope Leo plays on until he’s 45! I don’t know what he wants to do but it would be fantastic to have him in the team when we inaugurate the new stadium."
Given his status as one of the best players in the world, he has often been the subject of blockbuster transfer rumours, with the likes of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea all linked with astronomical moves for Messi in the past. However, Bartomeu insisted that these rumours have never worried him.
"No, no, it hasn’t been hard [to keep Messi]. What matters is that we have been able to have good players and coaches with the same very clearly defined philosophy," Bartomeu added.
"Whoever the coach is, it’s the same way of playing so Messi feels very comfortable here. Why would he change it for another club with a different concept of football, why would he go elsewhere?"
This season, Messi has racked up a stunning 48 goals and 22 assists in 46 games, and Bartomeu joked that he has become too good to comprehend.
He said: "This year I wouldn’t give him the Ballon d’Or. He’s beyond that now. He’s in a category of his own. For years now he’s just been competing against himself. There are other great players but he is in another dimension."