Josep Bartomeu talking to Radio Catalunya, in his latest interview // EL SUPLEMENT, RADIO CATALUNYA

FC Barcelona’s president, Josep Bartomeu, has opened up in an interview with Radio Catalunya, in celebration of the club’s 120 year anniversary.

November 29, 1899 was the date of FC Barcelona’s establishment, and the club celebrated its 120 anniversary on Friday of last week. As part of the celebrations, club president Josep Bartomeu had an interview conducted by the highly regarded news outlet and radio channel, Radio Catalunya.

During said interview, the president talked about Lionel Messi, Ernesto Valverde, La Masia, and the future, and did not hide his worry of the day Messi decides to hang the boots.

“I am worried about the day Messi retires,” began FC Barcelona’s president.

“I would like him to sign another contract. [His current contract] ends in 2021. He still has time ahead of him, [and] we’ve spoken many times about that,” Bartomeu assured Radio Catalunya.

Lionel Messi was picked up by Barcelona as a 13-year old, and got his first team debut in 2004. Since then, he has mentioned that he would like to finish off his career at his boyhood club, Newell’s Old Boys.

However, more recently, in his second season as the team’s first captain, he admitted that he would love to finish his career — and retire — with Barcelona. Bartomeu, of course, is aware of this, and is not fearing Messi leaving as much as what to do when he does leave.

“He does not have any problem with continuing at Barca. I have no doubt that he will play here until he retires, [and] that he’s committed to the club. There are no doubts about him ending his career here and ending it when he wants. We will give him as many contracts as he wants, I hope he can sign one more with me as president,” Bartomeu explained, before continuing:

“Hopefully, he [Messi] will stay [with us] for a while yet. He is 32, and has time ahead of him.”

Many players have come through Barcelona’s ranks, many players are doing so, and many players will do so. In Barcelona’s golden generation, the Catalan side was heavily reliant on its talents, and exactly that is something the club became known for. Bartomeu does not plan on disrupting that, and has made it clear that the younger players are in the future plans for the club, and for life after Lionel Messi.

“We have young talents from La Masia. Ansu Fati renewed his deal [recently], but there’s also (Carles) Aleña, Frenkie de Jong who just signed, (Marc-André) ter Stegen, (Ousmane) Dembélé… We have to prepare for the future with the younger players. The day that Messi leaves, the game [of football] will change,” the club president explained.

Another club name whose contract ends in 2021 is Ernesto Valverde. The Basque manager signed with the club back in 2017, and while the team has achieved many good results under his tenure, the bad results have been the ones to stand out. While Valverde is far from a much animated character on the sidelines, the president assures that Valverde does have an endearing side — off camera, and does not see his lack of showing emotion as a negative.

“All the managers I have had have been serious. Rijkaard, Martino, Guardiola, Lucho, Ernesto. They’re all serious. The responsibility [as a manager] is huge, and demands a lot. You have to win everything here. If you fail to win everything, it is not considered a good season. But Ernesto is fun away from the camera, he is endearing. People have said Ernesto, Lucho, Pep, Tito, Tata are all very serious. Maybe Rijkaard was the change, because with Ronaldinho he brought smiles,” Bartomeu pondered.

The Txingurri’s contract runs out in 2021, but as was brought forth recently, includes an option of deciding whether he will continue or leave, one year prior to the contract ending. Bartomeu elaborated further on this, in his interview with Radio Catalunya.

“He [Valverde] has a contract until 2021. In the spring, there is an option where he — or the club can decide whether he will continue. Either he decides, or Barcelona does. A manager continuing depends on many variables, and we’ve seen managers stay for short periods of time in Barcelona, recently,” he explained, before continuing:

“Three years could be enough [for him], but it is a decision that he should make. It depends on the agitation, how things go, but I see an excited Valverde, who wants to do well, wants success and wants to combine the players that have won everything with the new generation of players who are coming in.”

The next test for Lionel Messi, Ernesto Valverde, and Barcelona, will take place this Saturday evening, when Mallorca visit the Camp Nou. The game kicks off at 9:00 PM in the central European time zone.