Former Barcelona right-back Albert Ferrer has told FourFourTwo that his old club could do with reducing their reliance on Lionel Messi – but believes the iconic Argentine will remain at the Camp Nou for the rest of his career.
Messi’s future has come under scrutiny in recent months with his current deal set to expire next summer, while radio station Cadena Ser reported in July that discussions between club and player had broken down.
Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu has since declared that he has “no doubt” Messi will commit to the club he first represented as a 17-year-old in 2004, however – a view shared by Ferrer, who believes the six-time Ballon d’Or winner will end his career in Catalonia.
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“I’m not too worried about how Leo has been feeling – we expect that because he is a winner,” says Ferrer, the former European Cup winner who played for Barça from 1990-98 and now works as a pundit for LaLigaTV.
“He wants to compete for everything, and win the Champions League. I think he will be at Barcelona until he retires. He loves Barcelona, the team, the club.
“It’s a unique situation. No other team can say they depend so much on someone. Barcelona needs to become independent of Leo Messi, but he is still the best, and the moment you give him the ball, he does something with it.
“It’s a good sign that Barcelona still have Messi, but other players need to play more, so not everything has to go through him. It may be difficult to mark Leo, but sometimes he is surrounded, so you need other ways. Barcelona need to make other players very important too, and do something different to help him. But they have some good options with the likes of Ansu Fati now.”
Barcelona lost their LaLiga crown to Real Madrid last season, finishing five points adrift after a limp return following lockdown in which they drew three of their nine matches after the restart and lost at home to Osasuna.
Ferrer believes Quique Setien’s squad was perhaps too thin to push Los Blancos all the way this time, but says Barça’s overall strategy should see them competing to topple their arch rivals next time around.
“I think before the lockdown, Barcelona were OK really,” he reflects. “But I think the squad is a bit short in terms of numbers and they couldn’t really rotate how they desired, maybe.
“In some of the games, there might have been six or seven players from Barcelona B playing, and while they’re very talented, they still lost games and particularly struggled in defence. So depth on the bench was one reason.
“They also tried to play differently, less predictably. But when there is a game every three days, that is difficult – you are just playing for your lives. It was a strange situation. And you have to also say that the run from Real Madrid [at the end] was fantastic.
“Barcelona can never win everything. They’ve won eight of the last 12 titles. Important players have left the club, so it has taken time to adapt.
“I think what they’re trying to do is the right way. They are trying to make a transition and bring some new players on, and bring in some young players from the academy. It’s difficult to find players when you’ve got those at the level of Leo and [Sergio] Busquets, but it is true that new players need to come in and improve the tempos and the levels.
“They also maybe need to experiment with formations. Yes, 4-3-3 is the philosophy of Barcelona but I think they should be more open to trying different things within the philosophy. It’s key.”
Ferrer is a pundit on LaLiga TV, the UK’s first dedicated channel to show all Spanish top-flight matches.
“I really like it,” he tells FFT. “LaLiga is a great competition and it’s a way to watch a lot of football. I love the fact that every team plays differently, with different tactics.
“As a coach myself, it’s so good to watch that – it’s very rich in terms of learning. I love watching how managers deal with problems and change systems. The quality of LaLiga is so high. Anyone can beat anyone and that’s great to watch.”
Albert Ferrer is a LaLigaTV pundit. UK fans can watch all of LaLiga in one place on LaLigaTV (Sky channel 435)
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