Barcelona must prepare for Messi retirement, says Bartomeu

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The prospect of the club captain calling time on his career may be unthinkable for some fans, but the president is already getting ready for the day

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says the club are investing in "great young players" in preparation for life after Lionel Messi.

With 29 goals from 28 games in all competitions, captain Messi remains the star player for Ernesto Valverde's team, but at 31 years old La Liga's top scorer may be in his last few seasons at the top of the sport. 

The Argentine sensation will be 34 when his contract runs out in 2021 and although Bartomeu expects him to sign on for a few more years, he knows he cannot carry on forever. 

The Catalan side have already wrapped up the signing of two young players who will move to Camp Nou in the summer as they look to build a team for the future. Frenkie de Jong will join from Ajax at the end of the season for an initial €75 million (£65m/$85m) and 20-year-old right-back Emerson is on his way from Atletico Mineiro. Those two deals add to their previous acquisitions of Malcom, Arthur, Clement Lenglet and Jean-Clair Todibo over the last two transfer windows.

Bartomeu's term as president will also come to an end in 2021 and he is confident that he will leave the Spanish champions in good shape to maintain their place among Europe's elite even after their talisman brings an end to his career.

"I know one day Lionel will say he's retiring," he told BBC Radio 5Live.

"We have to prepare the club for the future. 

"We are bringing great young players to the team because we need to continue this era of success. That's our responsibility.

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"My mandate will be finished in two seasons. So I need to leave the club in a great position and tell the new president 'that's our legacy'."

Messi is top of La Liga's goal chart with 21 goals and is chasing his 10th title with Barca, who sit six points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of the table with fierce rivals Real Madrid trailing by a further two points.

They are also in the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with Madrid, with the first leg finishing a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou and the second leg to follow at the Bernabeu on February 27.

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