The Athletic Bilbao midfielder is preparing to face the Blaugrana on Saturday, and insists the Catalans' era of dominance is not yet over despite their Champions League humblingEXCLUSIVE
By Alberto Pinero, Gorka Posada and Pilar Suarez
Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera says he hopes Lionel Messi stays at Barcelona for many years to come.
The 23-year-old is a huge admirer of the four-time Ballon d'Or winner, but while he acknowledges the importance he has in the side, he does not believe the Blaugrana are overly dependent on the Argentina superstar.
"Barcelona have also won lots of games without Messi," he told Goal.com.
"It's obvious that it's different when he plays or not, as he is the best player in the world. I hope he stays in Barcelona."
Barcelona travel to face Athletic on Sunday off the back of a humbling 4-0 Champions League semi-final defeat to Bayern Munich, but Herrera does not believe the Catalans' era of dominance is coming to an end just yet.
"Barcelona will need to have a revenge from their tough loss in Munich, but even their secondary players can easily win. There is no a good moment to play against them," he continued.
"I don't think Barca's era has come to its end. It's the best team I've ever seen and they are only going through a bad moment."
Herrera also paid tribute to former team-mate Javi Martinez - who played key role in for the Bavarians in their triumph at the Allianz Arena on Tuesday - describing him as the strongest player he has played alongside in his career.
"Javi Martinez played his best game of the season in a key moment last Tuesday," Herrera said. "He is so good that the team needs him at his best. Bayern needed his strength and, to be honest, he is the strongest team-mate I've ever had in my short career. I'm happy for him; he deserves it."
Herrera has continued to flourish at San Mames since the departure of Martinez last summer, but he insists any talk of a Spain call-up remains premature at due to the depth of quality at Vicente del Bosque's disposal.
"The national team is still quite far from me," he added. "There are many great players but I will keep working in case I have my chance in the future. It's time to focus in Athletic though and I can enjoy watching those huge players on TV."