Lionel Messi has lauded rumoured Barcelona transfer target and Inter forward Lautaro Martinez amid ongoing rumours of a swoop from the Catalan giants.
The 22-year-old has enjoyed a fine season so far this year, scoring 16 goals and providing four assists in 31 appearances having played a key role in Inter’s push for the Serie A title.
Meanwhile, Messi will know first hand how good of a player Martinez is as he’s also bagged nine goals in 17 caps for Argentina to suggest that he has a big future ahead of him for both club and country.
As noted by the Evening Standard, the Argentine international has been heavily linked with a switch to Barcelona this summer, although his €111m release clause is said to be an issue as it remains to be seen if a deal can be agreed between the two clubs to see him make the switch to the Nou Camp.
However, Messi has been speaking about his compatriot, and lavished him with praise as he’s clearly fully aware of the quality that he possesses, although he remained coy on whether or not he was aware of Barcelona’s interest and possible talks over a transfer.
“If I’m honest with you, I’m not sure if there were or are negotiations right now for him, I have no idea,” he told Mundo Deportivo. “I think I already mentioned it, that Lautaro is an impressive striker, especially because I think he is a very complete forward: he is strong, he dribbles well, he can score goals, he knows how to protect the ball… but we will have to see what happens finally with him and with other names.
“He’s spectacular, he has impressive conditions, you could see that he was going to be a great player, now he has exploded and is showing it. He is very strong, he is very good in one-on-one situations, he has a lot of goals, in the area he fights with anyone, he endures, he turns, he rummages for himself. He has a lot of quality, is very complete.
“Lautaro bears a lot of resemblance to Luis (Suarez), the two handle very well with their bodies, they hold the ball, when it comes to charging, at goal time, they have similar qualities.”
With Suarez turning 34 next year, Barcelona may well be wise to pursue a long-term replacement to ensure Messi has enough support in the final third to allow him to continue to flourish and lead their charge.
Further, Ousmane Dembele continues to struggle with injuries, while Antoine Griezmann hasn’t fully adapted and settled into the system and style of play in his debut campaign with the reigning La Liga champions.
It remains to be seen if Martin Braithwaite is part of the long-term plans for coach Quique Setien, while there may well be a decision to make on Philippe Coutinho if he returns from his loan spell this summer.
Nevertheless, Martinez could prove to be a vital addition to the squad and based on Messi’s comments above, although he was coy about the actual interest from Barcelona, he sounds pretty convinced that his compatriot would be a top signing if he arrived and an ideal successor to Suarez.