Javier Tebas: Lionel Messi 'Essential' to La Liga, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar Not

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 27, 2019

Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi arrives before the Spanish League football match between Barcelona and Real Betis at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 25, 2019. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)
JOSEP LAGO/Getty Images

La Liga president Javier Tebas has called Lionel Messi the "heritage of La Liga" and said the Barcelona icon is essential to Spain's top division, though the same can't be said of Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar.

Ronaldo ended a nine-year stay with Real Madrid to join Juventus last summer, while Neymar made a world-record move from Barca to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.

Messi, meanwhile, has played his entire professional career at the Camp Nou. Tebas told Marca (h/t Goal) of the unique appeal the Argentina star holds for fans of Spain's top flight:

"Yes, of course [I'd like Neymar to return]. With his qualities he's in the top three players in the world. It would be very important for La Liga if he came again, although it wouldn't be defining for the Spanish league.

"The defining thing is that we play 10 months a year, with 20 clubs each playing each other and generating passion and joy each weekend for fans in Spain and across the world.

"A player like Neymar gives you a following in countries that look out for him, but he's not an essential element, not even Cristiano Ronaldo was. Lionel Messi, on the other hand, is an essential element because he's the heritage of La Liga."

Messi, 32, is yet to feature this season as he continues his recovery from a calf injury. The Blaugrana lost 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao in their opening game before coming from behind to beat Real Betis 5-2 on Sunday.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner may have been absent so far, but La Liga audiences were recently reminded of his talents after his goal against Betis in March was nominated for this year's Puskas Award:

Tebas may not be as critical of Ronaldo and Neymar if the former La Liga stars were still playing in Spain. Ronaldo spent almost a decade at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, with Neymar departing for France after a four-year spell.

Messi has proved himself to be a cut above even rival Ronaldo when it comes to his strike rate in Spanish football, per Sky Sports Statto:

It's difficult to envision Messi playing anywhere other than at the Camp Nou having repeatedly dismissed any transfer speculation to emerge over the years. Neither Ronaldo nor Neymar seemed as cemented at their clubs while playing for Real and Barca, respectively.

Neymar has spent a fraction of his career in Spain compared to his two peers. After two seasons in France, the Brazilian has again been linked with Barcelona and Real this summer following a rocky stint at PSG.

Tebas has made his opinion of the player clear, however, and recently said he'd prefer if Neymar remained outside La Liga, per AFP's Tom Allnutt:

Messi will go down as a La Liga legend and arguably the greatest of all time to represent the division. He could continue his remarkable legacy when his team travel to Osasuna on Saturday seeking their first away win of the new campaign.

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