Where should Lionel Messi play next season?

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi stands during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg football match FC Barcelona vs Juventus at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 19, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Marco BERTORELLO (Photo credit should read MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images)

Watching FC Barcelona outclassed in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and now facing a must win scenario in El Clásico has finally shown how unbalanced the club has become. With a final in the Copa del Rey still looming, most clubs would feel fortunate to be in a position to win one title let alone the possibility of two at this point in the season, but Barcelona is more than a club. The problem most pressing to the club now is how to utilize the greatest player of all time to his fullest potential with however many remaining seasons he decides to play.

Many argued that Neymar, Luis Suárez, and Messi would never be able to play together on the same team, and those naysayers were resoundingly silenced after a treble winning campaign was followed by a domestic double. The difference between those squads and the current one is the unfortunate loss of two club legends, Xavi and Dani Alves. You can argue it was time for Xavi to hand over the armband, but Dani has shown he still has a lot left to give any club. Now Barcelona face a similar Xavi situation with the aging of Andrés Iniesta, but what does this all mean for the club and especially Lionel Messi?

Having MSN play for your team means a multitude of things, the obvious being brilliant football, but also with them comes high wage bills and the necessity of having a squad suited to cater to their unique talents. Football is a simple game but must be played with eleven players all on the same page, there’s many ways now of buying a ticket to watch a game, now you can even get football tickets online which great for the fans. Barcelona is known for their classic 4-3-3 formation but with the players the club now possesses many other sides have figured out how to play against it. Don’t allow Sergio Busquets time on the ball, overload the right flank and clog the middle forcing Messi to drop deep into midfield, and counterattack the club’s high defensive line. Against most sides Barcelona still prevails against these tactics, but to defeat the truly great European sides and to be able to compete for all three Cups changes have to be made.

So, where should Messi play? What formation should the club utilize to break down stubborn defensives? There are four options the club should consider. Number one is to stick to the tried and true 4-3-3 with Messi in a right wing position. Luis Suárez is a pure number 9 and needs to lead the line and play in the center to be effective. Neymar on the other hand loves to hug the left touch line and drift inside to take on defenders to not only create but create space. This allows Jordi Alba to overlap to great effect. Messi on the opposite side continually moves inside to find time on the ball and to dribble at defenders and create passing lanes. The problem Barcelona face this season is that they don’t have Dani Alves to maraud up and down the right flank to occupy the space Messi leaves behind. Sergi Roberto is a good player but he doesn’t have the pace nor the telepathic understanding the Brazilian and Argentine had. For this formation to work next season hopefully Aleix Vidal will fully recover and the club needs to sign a right back in the same vein as Alves. Héctor Bellerín continues to be mentioned. Hopefully this season Denis Suárez will be used as a right sided midfielder to bring more balance and creativity than Ivan Rakitić does. The Croatian is a great player for the club but his talents lie in his work rate mirroring a lot of what Roberto brings to the right side.

Messi as he progresses through his career is becoming more of a classic number 10 than anything else. From that position he has the opportunity to either dribble past defenders, create for others, or score. Sticking with a 4-3-3 could still be an option for the club, but they would need a double pivot behind Messi to make this work. Having Javier Mascherano partner Sergio is an option but the former is reaching the twilight of his playing career with Barcelona. Sergi and Ivan are two other possibilities for the position but many would favor signing a new player. Former youth team members Sergi Samper and Oriol Romeu deserve a shout but most Culés would only settle for a player of Marco Verratti’s quality to be signed. Players like Thiago and Philippe Coutinho don’t necessarily have the defensive work rate for this kind of formation to work. Those two can be seen more as replacements for Iniesta and as left sided midfielders if Messi stays on the right wing. Also if Messi moves to a pure 10 role the club would need to sign a new right winger. Recalling Gerard Deulofeu is a a definite option but more likely the club would move to sign a world class player like Paulo Dybala or Antoine Griezmann.

Sticking with Messi as a number 10 may also work if the club decided to use three in the back. The problem with this formation is where does the width come from? Neymar brings it on the left but who would on the right? Do you play with Iniesta or his replacement on the left side of midfield with Messi on right and two midfielders behind them or more of a 3-3-1-3 formation? Barcelona typically has the lion share of position so this can be a moot point. Many times the club only has two men playing near the half way line as cover against a counter attack anyway. Although a three man defense negates a lot of the great work of Sergio and the width that comes from the full backs. Also the club may need to sign two new centerbacks unless Marlon is deemed ready, and most importantly where does Jordi Alba fit in this formation? The problem of who plays right wing and right midfield also remains.

The last and least favorable option would be to move one of the big three. Knowing our current board anything seems possible at this point. In an alternate universe the club could sell Luis and move Messi back to a false 9 position. This kind of move would only work if the right kind of winger was brought in along with overhauling the midfield. Sufficient to say the real last option would be to sell the greatest player of all time and use the great influx of funds to completely overhaul the squad. Never for a billion euros should the club do this but as stated before anything seems possible.

What formation should the club use, who should we sign, and where do you think Messi should play next season?


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  • Jeffrey Henneh

    I think will like the second option where leo comes into the midfield with we signing verrati dybala and a RB maybe bellerin or walker. It could be a 433 nd a 4231.

    • Jaksa Tamás

      With what money? This is about 200m euros

      • Jeffrey Henneh

        Very true. We can offload some deadwoods. Arda can move to china for a huge some masche can aslo go and others. So what do you want?

        • Jaksa Tamás

          I think we gonna have the usual cca 50m + sales for the transfer season. We can collect 30-35m for Arda (even china wont pay 50), a few more maybe for Masche (if we want to sell), around 20m for Gomes. I would even sell Digne (and promote Cucu from the B team) and Rakitic (20m). This is 120-140 million at most.
          Dybala just extended his contract, so i think he is unavailable. Verratti OR Coutinho is a possibility for around 70m. Bellerrin for 30-35. Deulofeu for 12.
          I guess this is the maximum.

        • Kneowell Anyanwu

          Arda to china? Since when did we totally decide where these players choose to go away from barca?

  • Doug McKellan (Coach)


    • Peter Tinkler

      Hahahaha! Good one. 🙂

  • James Anderson

    Its not Barcelona without Messi, and Its not Messi without Barcelona!!!

  • William Headlam-Wells

    To the author: why would you put a question mark over the best player and the best part of the team?

    Attack is the strongest area so don’t change it and over complicate things.
    Defence and midfield is weak now so buy/sell players in those areas. IE try to replace Dani Alves & Xavi, the guys who supplied Messi.

    Buying strikers isn’t the solution to life’s problems. Dybala won’t solve a poor defence & midfield .

    Keep the good players, sell the bad ones . How’s that for simplicity?

    • Eivind Niclasen

      Tell that to the board. They love getting rid of the likes of Alves and Thiago, while recruiting the likes of André Gomes, Digne and Alcacer at inflated prices. Having said that, Paco is still young. If LE gets replaced with a manager strong enough to instill a meritocracy, Alcacer could provide serious competition for Suarez up front. He is largely labelled a flop since arriving last summer, but has never really been given time to find his rhythm in the team. Suarez is bound to fire blanks at various points, which could prove opportune for Paco to show his worth.

  • Heckel

    I’d put Messi n°10, with Neymar and Suarez in front of him and that’s all.

  • Heckel

    Behind the MSN, a three players midfield : busquets, A gomes, and a fast man (not Iniesta !).
    And a break with the philosophy, because every team knows the Barça game very well… We can shoot from far !

  • Jordan Saf

    I wouldn’t discuss Messi’s position when we have other immediate issues within the team to address. Barca has the best forward line in the world already.

    We have average control in midfield at best and that is the reason for struggling in attack against better teams and easily conceding goals against almost every team. Rakitic’s level has notably dropped, Iniesta is in his twilight and Busquets can’t do it all on his own. The backup players are not at club level; Gomez is the weakest link, Denis is good but not good enough and Rafinha is inconsistent and injury prone.

    I’d ship off the last 3 and bring in 2 players like Veratti and Cotinhou and bring Sergi Roberto back to midfield. I’d love to see Samper in the first team too.

    Ship off Matieu, give Digne a chance, bring in a backup promising central midfielder and a star rightback to compete with Vidal.

    • Nana Kwame Koranteng

      i couldn’t agree with you more..is better we break the bank for 2 midfielders and a winger, bringing gerard D. back from milan is good then we get veratti plus coutinho.

      • Kneowell Anyanwu

        Good stuff, but i think we all saw munir wasnt good enough over 2 seasons..

  • Kneowell Anyanwu

    Hello people, been a while, what have i missed? Was cut off from the world for sometime

    • Adewolu Abiodun Dammy

      Me too. Since Totalbarca stopped updating current info i blackout. Happy to be back at this crucial moment.
      Fiscal BARCA

  • Kneowell Anyanwu

    Serkan Servas… Your opinion is hereby required, time for you to make the first sense without trolling and without the benefit of hindsight. Here is the cache, lucho wont be in the picture. Smiles

  • futbolistaviva

    One of the best Classicos in decades.
    Stunning final. Messi sublime.
    Ter Steven fantastic. Iniesta, Busquets, Rakitic, were super.
    Pique, Umtiti, Alba and Roberto composed. Roberto’s run for the final goal critical.
    Gomes made the best layoff of his life.
    Suarez had the touch of a cement mixer and marksmanship of a pea shooter but held off Nacho for Leo’s finale!
    Lucho is leaving.
    No play station fan boy haters!
    It was a great day!
    Visca Barca!

  • Jonathan Foreman

    I think Barça fans are overreacting about the team’s problems. I don’t see any cause to sell Messi, Suarez, or Neymar. I think with a more experienced coach and maybe a couple personal changes we can succeed in our current 433 formation. This panic and talk of doing a complete revamp of the squad is completely unwarranted. To me our problems look like easy fixes yet everyone is going on as if we finished sixth in the league and won no trophies. In case you didn’t notice, we are still in contention for a domestic double. Everybody take a chill pill.

  • Leonard Regalia

    Barca needs to sigh a mature Right wing and right back to support the injured Aleix Vidal when he returns next season and gives Sergi Roberto and Denis Suarez more play time in the midfield to replace the Skipper and hardworking Rakitic in the second half of games. Get back Munir from Valencia and sub Gomes in some matches. The formation will remain 4-3-3 Ter Stegen in the Goal Post, Pique, Umtiti, Aleix and Alba holds the defence, Messi, Rakitic, Busquet in the Midfield and Neymar, Suarez and Dybala or Deulofeu or Coutinho or Greizmann on the right. Lets hope we win domestic Double this season again. UP Barca…

  • H1BisTreason

    Neymar – Suarez – Messi 4 Ever!

  • Adewolu Abiodun Dammy

    For me, our major problem is the back. The new coaching crew got job to do on this, RB, Cb. The new coach must also let MSN understand they need to rest, they can’t play all matches, the tiring factor caused us Uefa last season, this season too, look at Suarez goal drought.
    Visca Barca!