Lionel Messi knocked back the idea that Barcelona are too reliant upon his brilliance amid persistent claims that the La Liga champions are “Messi-dependent.”
No one scored or created more goals in Spain’s top flight this past season than Messi, who ended the campaign with 34 goals and 12 assists in his 32 starts. In total, Messi directly contributed to more than 46 percent of the 99 goals scored by Barca — and that does not include goals he was indirectly involved in, too — as they won a seventh league title in 10 years, but Messi said the club are not reliant on him.
“It’s crazy [to say] that the best club in the world depends on just one player,” Messi told Diario Sport.
“If that’s the case, something’s being done wrong because Barcelona have [too many] great players to say that they depend on just one. We’re talking about top-level players, the best in the world, and it’s crazy to say that Barcelona have ‘Messi-dependence.'”
Messi’s goals helped Barca end the season, their first with Ernesto Valverde as coach, with a league and cup double. However, they came up short in the Champions League as they were eliminated in the quarterfinals for the third year running.
Barca then had to watch as rivals Real Madrid won the competition for the fourth time in five years.
Despite that, Messi insisted he would not swap the domestic double for more Champions League glory, although he did say that Barcelona must improve on the European stage next season.
“The truth is we would like to have won more Champions League [games], above all, in the last three years,” he said.
“Getting knocked out [in the quarterfinals] cannot happen to us, especially how it happened this time, with the first-leg lead we had [against Roma]. That made the elimination even more painful. It was even worse because of how it happened.”
To win the Champions League, Messi said Barcelona “need to have the best players” and he again reiterated his belief that Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann is one of them.
Griezmann said on Saturday that he will announce a decision on his future before the World Cup starts, with his two options thought to be to stay at Atletico or move to Barca, but Messi does not know if it’s the club’s priority to bring in the France international.
Alongside signings such as Griezmann, Messi would also like to see the club continue to bring through players from the academy in an attempt to stop teenagers leaving in search of opportunities elsewhere.
“Since [Pep] Guardiola, we’ve seen players coming through from the academy, but recently, that’s been lost a little,” he said. “Important players have left for other teams where they see more chances.
“It’s strange that they leave the biggest club in the world for a smaller one and don’t want to wait. But teams come in for them from England or Germany, like with [Sergio Gomez at Borussia Dortmund] who was promised to train and play with the first team.
“Obviously, it can’t be the case for everyone, but there are players who deserve that [chance] here, too, which would show the kids that it’s not impossible to make the first team.”
Messi, though, does not expect to be one day giving those chances to the next generation coming through at La Masia.
“I haven’t thought about what I’ll do when I retire — I don’t want to,” he said. “Right now, I don’t see myself as a manager, but you never know what will happen. I heard [Zinedine] Zidane say the same once and look what happened to him.”
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.