With Lionel Messi turning 29 this summer, Barcelona fans must be fearing the time when his performances begin to suffer due to his advancing years.
It’s been 12 years since Messi made his Barcelona debut and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, he has made 540 appearances for the first-team, scoring an incredible 462 goals.
If Barcelona chiefs are a little worried about the impossible task of replacing Messi’s goals, then it would be very understandable.
However, according to Ivan Rakitic, the Catalan club don’t need to worry about anything. That’s because the midfielder believes that they already have the new Messi in the form of Neymar.
“If we speak about the best, it is Leo Messi. Neymar is on the way to be the next best,” he told The Times.
"Barca will do the best thing to sign a new contract with him and maybe they can put a buyout clause as high as possible, because he will be the next Messi for sure."
"He's scored (nearly) 300 goals and he's only 24. He's really special."
In truth, it’s hard to disagree with the Croatian.
Since signing for the Camp Nou club, Neymar has already scored 90 goals in 149 appearances and has been capped an incredible 73 times for Brazil in his career. When you consider that he’s only 24, that is simply ridiculous.
As mentioned by Raktic, Barcelona are on the verge of handing Neymar a brand new contract and their official Twitter account revealed that he will sign a new deal on Friday that will last until June 2021.
Neymar may have come third in last year’s Ballon d’Or ceremony - behind Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo - but it doesn’t look like he’s earned a place on the podium this time around.
While Ronaldo is widely expected to win his fourth title with Messi in second, Neymar is currently sixth favourite to win the accolade.
Teammate Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann and Gareth Bale are all rated to have a better chance of winning the 2016 Ballon d’Or.
However, if he continues to improve at Barcelona, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Brazilian winning the award in the coming years. As for the next Messi, well, that could prove to be an impossible task.
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