The core of the Barcelona team is getting on a bit. Lionel Messi (33 years old in June), Luis Suarez (33), Sergio Busquets (32 in July) and Gerard Pique (33) are beginning to enter the final years of their playing careers.

It was Suarez himself who’d warned Barcelona about the situation, urging the club to sign a replacement for him last year.

All four players are hard to replace; just look at the problems Barcelona have had in merely trying to find a partner for Pique in defence. Clement Lenglet is the only center-back who’s fitted in well alongside the defender, while there are doubts over Samuel Umtiti.

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Yerry Mina wasn’t the answer either and Jean-Clair Todibo is in the Bundesliga trying to gain some experience, although Schalke do have the option to buy him. As for the midfield, Frenkie de Jong is the natural successor to Busquets in the holding role, with the Dutchman currently having to make do with a more advanced position.

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Meanwhile, Barcelona know they must sign a replacement for an ageing, injury-prone Suarez up top. It’s replacing Messi that is going to be the problem, logically. You’re not going to find another player like him but, realistically, Neymar is probably the next best thing.

The Blaugrana still have time to re-sign the Brazilian as Messi comes into his final seasons at the Camp Nou.

MARCA

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