Lionel Messi should follow his heart and stay with Barcelona this summer in a bid to restore the Blaugrana to their former glories, according to his former Argentina team-mate Franco Di Santo.
Speculation around Messi’s future continues to swirl, with the mercurial No.10’s contract set to expire at the end of June following his public falling-out with the club’s hierarchy in the summer of 2020.
That means that Saturday’s meeting with Real Madrid at Estadio Alfredo di Stefano would be his last-ever Clasico if he does choose to leave Camp Nou behind.
Goal understands that the 33-year-old is completely ignoring the situation around his future until the end of the season as Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter continue to be linked with his signature.
And former Chelsea striker Di Santo believes that while it would be interesting to see the six-time Ballon d’Or winner in a new setting, he would rather he remained in Catalunya.
What was said?
Speaking exclusively to Goal, Di Santo says: “He deserves respect at Barcelona for all he has won in the club. It is a team game but a big part of their recent history has been about him.
“I don’t think they would have won as much without him. He is the key for everything at Barcelona. And the style of play. He deserves to be respected for what he has won in the last years.
“It would be great for whoever signs him in the Premier League or Italy. To see him in another context would be cool.
“However, I would like to see him stay in Barcelona to build his legacy.
“If I were him, I would ignore whatever people say and do what my heart says. I would do what’s best for my family and me. Maybe that’s to make Barcelona strong again.”
Is Messi still the world’s best player?
Despite a poor start to the season and the emergence of new stars such as Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland, Messi’s recent form suggests he is not willing to give up his crown as the world’s best player without a fight.
With 16 goals and seven assists in 13 league games since the turn of the year, Messi has led Barca back into the Spanish title race, with Ronald Koeman’s side now just a point behind faltering leaders Atletico Madrid with nine matches still to play.
The Blaugrana have also reached the Copa del Rey final, which is scheduled for April 17 against Athletic Club.
As such, a domestic double is within Messi’s reach, and Di Santo believes that his recent form suggests he remains at the very top of the world game.
“Even just meeting Messi is amazing because he is our (Argentina’s) other idol along with (Diego) Maradona,” Di Santo adds. “I think with him they are the two best players in our history.
“We have produced so many good players but those two are the best that we have had.
“I think Messi is one of the best players, if not the best, right now. We are always happy to have him in our team. It will be really difficult to see another player like him in the future.”