Barcelona star Lionel Messi has insisted he will never play for another European club apart from his current employers, and he thinks his team-mate Neymar is good enough to win the Ballon d’Or one day.
Messi was speaking to the France Football magazine after clinching the accolade for a fifth time. Upon being asked what he had planned for the rest of his career, the Argentinian ruled out the prospect of joining one of Barcelona’s Champions League rivals, insisting the only way he’ll ever leave is to return to his home country, per Matt Maltby of the MailOnline:
I have always said that Barcelona is my home and that I want to retire at this club, but I was talking about my European career there.
I could never play for another European club [other] than Barcelona. But I would like to play in Argentina, because I left when I was still little. I would like to know how it is to be part of the Argentine game. Anything can happen in football, but I have no doubts about what I want, and what I want is to stay here at Barcelona.
It’s news that will be music to the ears of Barcelona supporters, with recent reports suggesting Manchester City may well be ready to launch a bid for the 28-year-old, per Sky Sports' Spanish football expert Guillem Balague.
Throughout his career with the Camp Nou club, Messi has looked contented. Sure, teams could throw massive amounts of money at the Argentina man and seek to tempt him to another division to take on new challenges. But Messi doesn’t strike you as a character who feels as though he has anything to prove in that respect.
After all, when you look at the forward’s career statistics, you can’t help but admire his natural attacking talents:
Lionel Messi has been directly involved in 601 goals in 500 games for Barcelona. Ridiculous numbers! pic.twitter.com/xz0ay284UE— BreatheSport (@BreatheSport) December 31, 2015
Plus, why would he want to go anywhere else in Europe? Barcelona won five pieces of silverware in 2015, they set up in a way to get the best out of Messi’s talents and alongside Neymar and Luis Suarez, many would argue he’s currently part of an attacking trident containing the three best players in world football.
Neymar certainly deserves to be categorised among that bracket after he finished third behind Messi and Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Ballon d’Or.
The Argentinian told France Football he thinks the Brazilian is capable of winning the award outright himself one day, per Mark Rodden of ESPN FC.
"I think Neymar will one day win the Ballon d'Or because he has all the qualities required and because he's a top-class player," Messi said. "He'll be whatever he wants to be. Everything is open for him. He's quick, technical, excellent in one-on-ones—he has everything.”
With Messi injured for much of this current campaign, many would argue Neymar has been the best player in La Liga this season. Here’s a reminder of why:
As is the case with Messi, individual awards don’t seem to be a driving factor for Neymar. Of course, it’s satisfying to be recognised, but alongside his fellow forwards in the Blaugrana jersey, the Brazilian seems intent on enjoying his football, scoring goals and winning trophies for the team.
As OptaJose noted after Barcelona thrashed Athletic Club 6-0 last time out, the attacking threesome link up to devastating effect at times:
8 - Messi, Neymar and Suarez have scored together in eight games with Barcelona (all comp.): six in 2014/15 and two in 2015/16. Trident— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 20, 2016
In Messi and Neymar, the Catalan giants are in possession of arguably the two most valuable players in the game.
For now, the changing of the guard seems a while off, with Messi intent on enjoying many more successes with Barcelona yet.