Lionel Messi is obviously a one-of-a-kind star, who will be simply irreplaceable whenever he decides to hang up his boots.
The Argentine will go down as one of, if not the greatest player to ever grace a football pitch.
Messi can do it all – ice-cold finishing, insane ball control, superb creativity. There is simply not another play on the planet who can fill Messi’s boots. Even Cristiano Ronaldo – one of the greatest goalscorer’s of all time – cannot rival the 33-year-old when it comes to assisting/creating chances.
But the fact remains that Messi’s time, both with Barcelona and in football in general, is inching towards a close.
The forward will be 34 in June and, at present, is primed to depart the Camp Nou this summer.
Messi’s current contract will expire at the end of the season, with a decision on his future not expected to be made until after the campaign’s conclusion.
Joan Laporta, the man who oversaw Barca’s golden era with both Pep Guardiola and Messi, is now once again president in Catalonia.
In addition, the Blaugrana have bounced back from their early-season struggles to reestablish themselves firmly in the La Liga title picture.
Messi, though, who attempted to leave Barcelona shortly after their 8-2 hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich last season, is no doubt once again disappointed following his side’s latest woeful Champions League exit.
So, whether it is this year, or in one or two seasons’ time, an ageing Messi will need to be replaced by Barca.
As already mentioned, Messi is of course a once-in-a-generation star, whom nobody can truly take over from. But, at 101, we have singled out four players who could attempt to follow in the footsteps of the South American at the Camp Nou.
Obviously, Messi is not what you would call a traditional winger, and now generally plies his trade through the middle.
But Mohamed Salah is also not really your typical wide-man, and is viewed as more of a wide forward.
Like Messi, albeit on a much smaller scale, Salah is capable of both scoring and creating chances from out wide, and has played centrally on a number of occasions for Liverpool.
The 28-year-old has also been one of the most consistent performers in Europe over the last four or so years.
The 2017/18 campaign saw the African notch a staggering 44 goals and 16 assists in 52 outings upon his return to England, a very Messi-esque return.
The years since have not proven quite as spectacular on Salah’s part, but he has still shone. In 2018/19, the former Roma man scored 27 and assisted 12, last season, he netted 23 and assisted 12, and even across the current campaign, which has seen Liverpool look pretty dire, Salah has nevertheless found the net 25 times.
As previously alluded to, there are not many players who, like Messi, can score and create at a truly elite level.
At present, though, the man closest to rivalling Messi in this role appears to be Harry Kane.
The Tottenham hitman has always been lethal in front of goal, and would no doubt continue to net on an almost weekly basis, should he be snapped up by Barcelona.
But, particularly this season, Kane has also showcased just what an impressive provider he can be.
In just 27 Premier League outings this term, the England international has scored 17, and provided 13 assists.
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) March 7, 2021
Granted, Barcelona would no doubt struggle to convince Spurs chairman Dany Levy to part with Kane. But, if somehow they managed to do so, the English international would likely be the player on this list most capable of replacing Messi’s goals and assists.
Unlike Kane, and to some extent Salah, the final two players on this list would be unlikely to replicate Messi from a creative standpoint.
However, they would, with the right side behind them, score a ton of goals for the Spaniards.
And if Barca really want to find themselves a goalscorer for the next 10 years+, Erling Haaland is of course their man.
The Norwegian, despite only being 20, is dominating both in the Bundesliga and the Champions League. Whomever he departs Borussia Dortmund for, in turn, will land a generational talent, with a huge career ahead of him.
The biggest issue when it comes to Haaland, though, is that BVB are believed to want €154m for his signature.
As such, with Barcelona reported to be over $1.2b in debt, perhaps the young hitman is out their reach? Such financial woes, though, did not stop the transfer chiefs at the Camp Nou from meeting with Haaland’s agent earlier this week.
The final player whom Barcelona could look to in a bid to replace Lionel Messi is Romelu Lukaku.
Lukaku made the move to Inter Milan in August of 2019, for a fee believed to be around £66m.
And since joining Antonio Conte’s side, the Belgian has cemented a name for himself as one of the top strikers in Europe.
Last season saw the 27-year-old net 34 and provide six assists across 51 outings, whilst he has since managed to score 25 and assist seven in just 34 games this time around.
Yes, his time at Manchester United was not the best, but Lukaku is now playing arguably the finest football of his career.
In terms of a potential fee for the Belgian, reports in Italy this week suggested that Inter want €120m for their star man, which would likely make Lukaku the cheapest option on this list.
This article was edited by Conor Laird.
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