Doubts are continuing to emerge over Andres Iniesta’s future at Barcelona, and reports claim Lionel Messi has identified the best replacement for him.
The Barca legend has been with the club for over two decades, making 662 appearances for the senior side and winning countless trophies, including eight La Liga titles and four Champions League trophies.
As he prepares to turn 34 in May, he could be edging to the end of his stay at the Nou Camp, despite the fact that he’s been a key part of Ernesto Valverde’s plans this season, making 32 appearances in all competitions.
However, Iniesta himself noted this week that he will make a decision on his future at the end of April, with a prolonged stay with the Catalan giants or a lucrative move to China the two options on the table it seems, as noted by BBC Sport.
Should it be the latter, then Barcelona need to start planning for the future and how they will fill the major void left behind by the Spanish international.
Signing Philippe Coutinho in January arguably went some way to addressing the issue as the Brazilian playmaker can be effective in that Iniesta role in linking between the lines and creating for the frontline.
The 20-year-old midfielder is considered a top prospect by the Catalan giants, and he’s bagged nine goals and four assists in 28 La Liga 2 appearances this season, while featuring three times for the senior side in the Copa Del Rey.
In turn, there are certainly positive signs that he is capable of making the step up, but it’s quite the gamble for Barcelona at this stage as there are no guarantees that he can deliver consistently if Iniesta chooses to move on.
Nevertheless, with quality alternatives around him and time and patience to develop his game, it’s arguably the most sensible long-term plan for Barca if they are willing to show faith in him like they did with Iniesta when he first emerged.