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The former Blaugrana star has saluted the impact made by the mercurial Argentine at Camp Nou and reflected on the club’s recent struggles

Lionel Messi will decide what his future holds, not Barcelona, says Edmilson, with an all-time great considered to have earned the right to dictate where he will be playing his football in 2021-22.

The mercurial Argentine has spent his entire club career to date at Camp Nou, with a record-breaking spell in Catalunya lifting him to the very top of the global game.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has, however, been asking questions of the direction in which Barca are heading on and off the field.

One push for the exits was blocked off over the summer, but the 33-year-old’s contract continues to run down and he will be free to speak with interested parties from January as he edges towards free agency.

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are reported to be positioning themselves at the front of a recruitment queue, while Barcelona have not given up hope of tying their talismanic presence to fresh terms.

Whatever happens from this point, Edmilson expects Messi to lead discussions, with the former Blaugrana star telling Marca: “Messi is a person who has given a lot to the club, he is the best player I have seen there in recent years, in terms of longevity.

“People might say Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, but the consistency of Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi for 10 years, scoring 70 or 90 goals, is impressive. I don’t think there is a player as complete as Messi and Cristiano.

“I think Messi is at a moment where he can decide whether to leave or stay, but that should be decided by him, not the club.

“He is a person who, aside from playing, wants to enjoy his football and is in a team that no longer has its connection on and off the field. It is very dangerous when you think of it like that, especially when you are in teams as big as Milan, Real Madrid or Barcelona.”

Messi grew disillusioned with life at Barca as they limped over the line in 2019-20, and things have not got much better in the current campaign.

Despite appointing club legend Ronald Koeman as manager, struggles for consistency have held the Liga giants back at home and abroad.

Edmilson believes questionable recruitment is to blame for regression in Catalunya, with big money invested in deals that have not worked out.

He added: “All teams have to go through changes, regardless of whether it is in two or five years.

“Barcelona are experiencing a very difficult period politically, there is a political gap and there is a generation that has won everything and is at the end of an era, and there are changes with which they are having difficulties.

“I think that Barcelona are going through a rather difficult time.

“They have signed players who, for me, have not shown much on the pitch, they have invested a lot in those players and unfortunately when a lot is invested in players who do not give collective or individual results, the crisis arrives and that, for a big team, is very dangerous.”

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December 19, 2020