Could this be Messi’s retirement plan?

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is hoping that Lionel Messi keeps playing for a few more years yet – but has discussed the need to replace him when he does go.

Messi is arguably the greatest ever football player but, at 31, is firmly in the back half of his career.

The Argentinian will hope to add to his four Champions League titles before he hangs up his boots.

Messi and Barcelona can move a step nearer to the trophy tonight as they face Lyon in the second leg of their Champions League last-16 tie.

And Bartomeu knows Barca need to keep strengthening because Messi will retire one day.

“We have the best player in the world, in the history of football,” Bartomeu told BBC Sport.

“I know that one day Leo will say ‘I stop playing football’.

“I hope that it’s going to be in a far few years but we have to prepare the club for the future.

“And that is why we are bringing young talent to Barcelona – Dembele, Coutinho, Frenkie de Jong.

“We have to continue this period of success and excellency.”

Messi is currently tied down at the Nou Camp until 2021.

However recent reports in Spain suggest Barcelona are keen on securing Lionel Messi on a longer deal.

According to Mundo Deportivo, the La Liga leaders have entered negotiations with Messi having held talks about their future plans.

Barca are keen to get Messi to sign an extension until 2022 at least but ideally they would like him to commit until 2023.

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