SHANGHAI (AFP) – Former Barcelona defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst told AFP that he hopes Lionel Messi will finish his career at the Nou Camp, as speculation swirls about the superstar’s future.
Messi is reportedly frustrated with Barcelona’s failure to build a top-notch squad, and tired of purported leaks from the Spanish club which paint him in a bad light.
Radio station Cadena Ser reported last week that the Argentinian had broken off negotiations on extending his contract, which runs until 2021, and was thinking of leaving.
Dutchman van Bronckhorst, 45, who is now coaching Guangzhou R&F in China, told AFP: “I would love to see him be part of Barcelona for his whole career.
“He’s one of the (few) players to stay his whole career at the same club.
“I admire him as a person and a player and hopefully he will stay there. That’s what I’d love to see.”
Van Bronckhorst left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2003 and won the Champions League in 2006, when a young Messi was already building a fearsome reputation.
“I’ve known him since he was 16 and now he’s 33,” said van Bronckhorst.
“He’s developed into a great human being, he’s a family man and he’s more than capable of making his own decisions about where his future lies and whether he leaves.
“He will decide himself, but I can’t imagine a Barcelona without him.”
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu this week responded to the storm of speculation by saying that the club had “an obligation” to keep Messi, calling him “the best player in history”.
Messi, who said in February he did not believe Barcelona could win the Champions League on current form, has had regular disagreements with the club’s board.
He reacted publicly when sporting director Eric Abidal appeared to blame the players for the sacking of Ernesto Valverde in January.
He also led the fightback from the Barcelona players over a dispute with the board in March regarding pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.