Barcelona's Lionel Messi Talks Changing Position, Unsure How Long He'll Play for

Christopher Simpson@@CJSimpsonBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 17, 2019

BARCELONA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 16: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona poses with the sixth European Golden Boot awards after receiving the 2018-19 Season European Golden Shoe award for Europe's top scorer for the sixth time during the Golden Shoe Award Ceremony at Antiga Fabrica Estrella Damm, on October 16, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona star Lionel Messi said he is unsure whether he'll convert into a midfielder as he gets older, nor does he know when he'll decide to call time on his illustrious career.

The forward spoke after being awarded his record sixth European Golden Shoe on Wednesday, 15 years to the day since his senior debut for Barca.

Per Marca's Juan Ignacio Gallardo and Luis F. Rojo, on whether he could become a midfielder in his twilight years, he said: "I don't know, it depends on how it goes. Now I usually drop myself deeper [on the pitch] to receive and be in contact with the ball and the midfield. I don't know what will happen in the future."

Messi's Golden Shoe for the 2018-19 season was the third time in a row he's won the award:

Football writer Roy Nemer suggested that the Argentinian has already become a midfielder:

The 32-year-old has spent a sizeable portion of his career playing on the right wing, but as he said himself, he has increasingly found himself dropping into deeper positions to link play between Barcelona's midfield and attack.

He has perhaps done so in recent years because of the relative decline of Barca's midfield, as the likes of Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta got older and eventually moved on.

Given his intelligence, creativity and virtually unrivalled passing range, Messi has the tools to dictate Barca's play from midfield if he continues to drop deeper as he gets older.

In terms of his ability to win matches for Barcelona, he's showing little sign of slowing down with age and has not yet hit the point where he knows a timeline for his retirement.

"You realise yourself how long you can continue [playing]," he said. "I'll find out over time. I'll be the first to say, 'I've come this far and I can't do it anymore,' or that I feel good to carry on. Over the years I will find that out."

He has achieved a great many milestones in his career, and there are a number of others he could yet achieve:

Long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo hit 700 career goals for club and country on Monday when he scored in Portugal's 2-1 defeat to Ukraine:

When asked why he does not tend to draw as much attention to his achievements as Ronaldo or former team-mate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Messi said: "I'd rather people talk about me. I know what I am, what I did and what I can give, but I keep it to myself. People can have their say. I don't like to talk about myself, I like to talk about the collective."

Although Messi remains as effective as ever on the pitch, injuries—which he has largely avoided over the course of his career—have become more frequent of late. He has missed five of Barca's 10 matches in all competitions this season.

"It is difficult because your mind is fine; you think that you are 25 years old and that you can continue doing the same things [as before] at the time," he said.

However, Messi added that "the body rules," and as a result of getting older he has to "be more careful" to manage his fitness and adjust his preparations for matches.

Despite him playing 90 minutes just once in their first eight La Liga matches of the campaign, Barca are only two points behind Real Madrid in the table, and they're the division's top scorers with 20 goals.

They've still been far from their best, though, so it will be an enormous lift for the team to have Messi fit and firing once again.

Since he made his debut in 2004, they've won 10 of the 15 La Liga titles available to them. If he can remain fit throughout the rest of this campaign, they'll be the favourites to do so again.

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