Lionel Messi’s Barcelona future not dependent on Xavi: Luis Garcia
Even likely change of president and coach after Barca's elections may not alter Argentine's exit plans
Lionel Messi might be staying at Barcelona for now, but he might not end his career at the Nou Camp, even if the club replace their president and install the Argentine's friend and former teammate Xavi Hernandez as coach.
That is the verdict of former Liverpool and Atletico Madrid midfielder Luis Garcia.
"Messi leaving doesn't depend on if someone else comes in or not," the Champions League winner told The New Paper on Monday, on the sidelines of a virtual press conference organised by LaLiga.
"It's how he feels on the field, if he feels happy playing with his teammates... and whether they can win trophies.
"If it is not like this, he will try to make a move next year...
"We all know Messi loves Barcelona and he wanted to spend his whole career there. Because of the situation and results, he's not enjoying it."
Last week, Messi reversed his decision to leave Barca but delivered a scathing assessment of club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom he claimed reneged on a promise to let him leave.
He also accused Bartomeu of not having a coherent plan for the team, saying: "They juggle and cover holes as things go by."
Bartomeu will leave his post following club elections in March with front runner Victor Font poised to replace him. Font had said that if elected, he will install Xavi as coach in incumbent Ronald Koeman's stead.
Font has also been lobbying for Bartomeu to resign so that his replacement can try to convince Messi to stay, arguing: "The next project should begin as soon as possible. Leo can negotiate from January with another club and it's necessary for Messi to believe these guarantees for the future before he's free."
Garcia, however, believes it is the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's teammates and their performances this season that will be more crucial to whether he remains at the club he joined when he was 13.
The 42-year-old ex-Spain international believes Philippe Coutinho will be key to that, particularly with reports that Koeman is keen to use him in midfield rather than as a wide forward, where he has played for much of his Barca tenure.
The 28-year-old has struggled to establish himself at Barca since his £142 million (S$254.8m) move from Liverpool in 2018, and spent last season on loan at Champions League winners Bayern Munich.
Said Garcia: "When Messi is on the pitch, you know you have the chance to win trophies. The club are trying to... change the situation from last year.
"We can see players like (Miralem) Pjanic, who is going add something to the team, a very young Ansu Fati becoming a big star, Messi's going to stay, Coutinho is going to be back.
"Hopefully, he stays because he is a fantastic player who can give some great things to Barcelona... It is a key moment for him, he gained a lot of confidence at Bayern and he's got a new coach who is going to start him from the beginning.
"He's got a lot talent and quality... It's a new year and he could be a key player in the middle or up front for Barcelona."
This could also be a big season for some of LaLiga's less fancied sides, particularly with both the Madrid giants having not made any major signings after spending lavishly last season.
With most of the stalwarts from his teams that won LaLiga and reached two Champions League finals now gone, Diego Simeone has experienced growing pains in building a new team at Atletico Madrid.
While Real Madrid overhauled Barca after the coronavirus-enforced break to win LaLiga, their performances in Europe have suggested that this is not a vintage Los Blancos side.
With Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos, Karim Benzema and Marcelo all in their 30s, this could be a season for regeneration with Vinicius Junior, 20, Federico Valverde, 22, and Rodrygo, 19, set to play bigger roles.
Garcia believes that this could be the best chance for a team outside Spain's big three to win LaLiga for the first time since Valencia in 2003/04.
He said: "This year could be a moment for teams like Sevilla or even Villarreal - they are signing fantastic players and are building a very strong team with (Unai) Emery at the helm...
"Of course, because of the experience and what they have shown last year, Sevilla have got a stronger and more confident team. (Julen) Lopetegui has done a great job over there."
Real, Atletico and Barca will not begin their LaLiga campaigns this weekend due to their European exertions, meaning Villarreal could be six points clear of Barca when the Catalan side kick off their season against Emery's men on Sept 27.
The Yellow Submarine finished sixth last season and have added Valencia captain Dani Parejo and talented Japanese midfielder Takefusa Kubo to a squad that feature Spanish internationals Pau Torres, Gerard Moreno and Paco Alcacer.
Sevilla, meanwhile, finished fourth and won the Europa League, impressively seeing off Inter Milan, Manchester United, Wolverhampton Wanderers and AS Roma. They have signed new Spain international Oscar Rodriguez and returning favourite Ivan Rakitic.