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‘Messi could leave Barcelona in the next couple of years’ – Rivaldo says Argentine must feel ‘important’

08:36 GMT 06/12/2019
Lionel Messi vs Villarreal
The former Blaugrana star is not expecting a six-time Ballon d’Or winner to head out of Camp Nou any time soon, but admits circumstances could change

Lionel Messi “won’t retire anytime soon”, says Barcelona legend Rivaldo, but he may be tempted to seek a new challenge away from Camp Nou in “the next couple of years”.

The mercurial Argentine recently conceded that “retirement is approaching” for him at 32 years of age.

There is no suggestion that he is planning on hanging up his boots in the near future, with 2019 having delivered a sixth Ballon d’Or triumph of his remarkable career.

Messi has also sought to calm any fears regarding the presence of an exit clause in his current contract.

Rivaldo, though, admits that an all-time great will need to feel “important” at Barca, as they look to bring through more young talent, in order to prolong his spell in Catalunya.

The former Blaugrana star told Betfair: “Messi talked about a potential retirement in the next few years at the Ballon d'Or ceremony and has started loads of rumours.

“It's normal that a 32-year-old footballer starts to think about his future but it will depend on how things go at Barcelona.

“If he feels important to the club and keeps on winning trophies, he won't leave or retire anytime soon, but in the next couple of years it could be different if he starts feeling it's harder to keep up with the young talent in the team.

“If he feels that he may just become an extra part of the team, and not the main focus, he should consider leaving for another competition.

“He still wants to win the World Cup and the Copa America with Argentina, so he should stay and play at the highest level until 2022 to cement his place in the team.

“It's still too early though.”

Messi saw off Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk and eternal rival Cristiano Ronaldo to land another Golden Ball, with Rivaldo of the opinion that a fellow South American deserves to once again be billed as the best player on the planet.

The ex-Brazil international added: “Despite losing out on the Champions League and the Copa America, I still think Messi was the best player of 2019 by scoring and assisting that many goals and deserved to win the Ballon d'Or.

“I'm not saying this because I played at Barcelona; I thought Ronaldo was the rightful winner back in 2017 and Luka Modric last year.

“But this year I really did think that Messi was the best player and it wasn't a surprising decision.”