La Masia coach ‘can’t imagine a Barcelona without’ Messi but will respect big contract call

Lionel Messi, Barcelona, Champions League 2020-21
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A six-time Ballon d’Or continues to run his current deal down towards free agency, but everyone at Camp Nou is eager to see him stay put

La Masia coach Garcia Pimienta admits he cannot “imagine a Barcelona without” Lionel Messi, but accepts that the mercurial Argentine has earned the right to dictate his own future.

As things stand, a six-time Ballon d’Or winner continues to head towards free agency at Camp Nou.

No fresh terms have been thrashed out, with the lack of a club president in Catalunya doing that cause few favours, and it may be that the 33-year-old ends a career-long association with the Blaugrana over the summer.

What has been said?

Pimienta, who worked in the academy system that moulded a rough diamond into the superstar he is today and has been for well over a decade, has told Cadena Ser: “It would be a shame if he left because Barcelona will always be his home but if he wants to, we have to respect his decision.

“I don’t know if Messi will continue, I hope he will.

“I can’t imagine a Barca without him, he has done his entire career here, he has earned the right to decide what he wants to do, but I hope he ends his career with us.”

Who has been linked with Messi?

Lionel Messi Barcelona PSG

Only those with the deepest pockets and biggest sporting ambition could enter the mix to secure Messi’s signature.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City form part of that elite group, with Ligue 1 and Premier League heavyweights seeing moves for an all-time great mooted.

Goal has, however, learned that the iconic South American will be making no decision on his future until the end of the season.

Barca are refusing to give up on agreeing an extension with their talismanic captain, but results have remained inconsistent this season and Ronald Koeman’s side are making hard work of trophy quests at home and abroad.

Do Barcelona have a contingency plan?

Replacing a modern day legend will be an impossible task for the Liga giants.

They do, however, have a number of promising youngsters on their books that big things are expected of.

Pedri and Ansu Fati have impressed when fit this season, while Riqui Puig has stepped out of the La Masia ranks to see 17 appearances across all competitions in 2020-21.

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Pimienta, who is currently in charge of Barcelona’s B team, added on a player that he has helped to develop: “When Riqui Puig comes in to play he does it well.

“Previously he worked a lot with me to fulfil his dream of playing for Barca’s first team. He is young, but he’s made to play for Barca.”

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