Samuel Eto’o believes Ansu Fati is “the one to take over from Lionel Messi” at Barcelona, with those at Camp Nou having to start contemplating life without the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
The Liga giants have seen their talismanic captain make one push for the exits, with the summer of 2020 dominated by speculation regarding the mercurial Argentine’s future.
Messi was eventually talked into staying put, as he revealed to Goal that he will be honouring the final year of his contract.
No fresh terms have been agreed in Catalunya, though, and the 33-year-old is free to speak with interested parties now that the January transfer window has opened.
Barca have not given up hope of extending their career-long association with an all-time great, but the clock is ticking as free agency looms large.
If Messi were to move on at the end of the season, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain among those said to be keen on doing a deal, then a sizeable void would be left in the Blaugrana’s ranks.
Filling the biggest of boots will be an almost impossible task, but Eto’o feels that 18-year-old forward Fati could be the man to succeed a fellow La Masia academy graduate.
The former Barca striker told SPORTbible of a potential changing of the guard: “I think [Fati] is the one for the future.
“He's currently doing amazing stuff so I think the club really needs to groom him and take very good care of him.
“Let's hope he's the one to take over from Messi.”
Eto’o was on Barca’s books when Messi broke through as a precocious teenager, with five memorable years spent trophy-collecting at Camp Nou between 2004 and 2009.
At the peak of his powers he landed La Liga and Champions League crowns under the guidance of Pep Guardiola, but the Cameroonian icon who went on to enjoy similar success with Jose Mourinho at Inter claims to favour Portuguese passion in the dugout over Catalan charisma.
Eto’o said of the bosses he thrived under: “I am more friends with Jose Mourinho's style. It's a question of style, they each have their own way, I prefer Jose Mourinho.
“However, Pep is a top, top coach, so I don't think you can make a decision, but I can tell you that there is no other coach, no other manager, who will get to motivate his players as much as Jose Mourinho does, for me the treble with Jose is the special one.
“Now there are more coaches with their own style. Yet, in terms of motivating and getting the most out of their players, that is Jose Mourinho.”