Barcelona legend Carles Puyol has declared Lionel Messi has the potential to play on until he's at least 38.
The Argentina star will turn 33 in June and continues to impress in La Liga this season with 14 goals and 12 assists to his name from just 19 appearances.
With long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo also still going strong with Juventus at the age of 35, Puyol backed Messi for similar longevity in the game.
"Messi is 32 and a player who takes care of himself like Leo does can play until he's 38," Puyol told Marca.
"Why are we talking about a Barcelona without Messi when he's here now? What we have to do is try to win as much as possible with him."
Messi is contracted at Camp Nou for a further season with speculation of a transfer away surfacing after he hit out at comments from club director Eric Abidal.
After winning a record sixth Ballon d'Or in December last year, the Barcelona attacker conceded he is conscious of his age and how much longer he may have left as a player.
“I'm aware of how old I am and I enjoy these moments so much because I know that retirement is approaching. Time flies," Messi said.
“I hope, God willing, that I keep playing for many more years. I'm now 32, though, and will be 33 at the end of the season, so, as I said, everything depends on how I feel physically.
“Right now I feel better than ever on a physical and a personal level, and I hope I can go on for a lot longer.”
Puyol for his part still misses being a player and admitted management doesn't particularly appeal to him.
"I'm more interested in being a sporting director than a coach," Puyol stated. "There's a lot of competition in coaching.
"I have a thing for football, but what I would prefer is to play again but that's impossible."
Barcelona are currently second in La Liga, one point behind leaders Real Madrid, who they face at the Santiago Bernabeu on March 1.
Before that El Clasico, the Catalans first face Eibar at home before a trip to Napoli for the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie.