Real Sociedad winger Ander Barrenetxea claims that it is “a joke” and “absurd” to say that Lionel Messi is “finished” at the top level as the youngster prepares to face Barcelona in Wednesday evening's Supercopa de Espana.
At 33 years old, the Rosario-born attacker has reached an age at which most outfield players would be considering retirement, but the six-time Ballon d'Or winner has stated his desire to continue playing – with or without Barcelona.
The examples of ageing duo Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus and Zlatan Ibrahimovic at AC Milan have proven that stars can continue to contribute at the highest level well into their 30s if managed correctly, and Barrenetxea believes that Messi should still be considered the best of all time.
“To be able to play a Supercopa, after having always seen it on TV, is a blessing for me,” the 19-year-old told Marca ahead of Wednesday's match-up.
“We've earned it with our work and we're going to enjoy it and compete in it. We will go out to win as always, knowing that they are a great team.
“I think it's a joke that they say Messi is finished, it's absurd. He is the best player of all time and he can decide a match at any time. Let's hope that it won't be on Wednesday. Let's play a great game and get to the final.”
Barrenetxea can count himself among a raft of emerging young Spanish talents that have been catching the eye, with Barca's Pedri also part of the crop of potential future stars that are making a name for themselves at the top of the game.
“I know him from the national team,” Barrenetxea said. “Pedri is an incredible player, he turns as and when he wants. If he is at Barcelona and is a regular next to Messi, it is something he deserves. They have not handed him anything. I am very happy for him, because he is very humble.
“I have also seen Bryan Gil doing what he is doing at Eibar since he was 16 years old, when we were with the Under-16s. I haven't seen a full-back who's stopped him all game. There are very few with his quality.
“I would also add [Yeremi] Pino and [Alex] Baena from Villarreal, Borja Sainz... The truth is that several of my generation have come together [and are playing first-team football].”