One day, Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona. That’s a depressing thought, isn’t it?
Whether he stays at the Nou Camp for the entirety of his playing career and retires a one-club man, or ends up leaving for the bright lights of Newell’s Old Boys in the near future, Messi’s Barca career will inevitably come to an end at some point in the next few years.
(Unless, of course, he does finally prove to be super-human and plays on indefinitely. We wouldn’t put it past him).
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However, when he does leave, what on earth will Barcelona do with his world-renowned No.10 shirt?
If the decision was down to Ronaldinho, he’d have the club retire the number in honour of the great Argentine.
In a recent interview, he said: “When Messi retires, which I hope will be a long time from now, they should leave the No.10 there so that nobody can touch it again.”
But would they actually do that?
It’s true that the next No.10 will have huge boots to fill, and we’re sure some fans would feel a little uncomfortable to see another player don the famous shirt.
But you could say the same for any other Barcelona legend who’s left the club in the last few years, be it Eric Abidal, Xavi or Andres Iniesta.
But the thing is, even if Barcelona wanted to retire Messi’s number, it’s simply not a viable option in Spanish football.
You see, as by the rules of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, each team is only allowed to use 25 players in a squad, and they must use the squad numbers between 1 and 25.
So retiring Messi’s shirt number would leave Barca one player short in their squad.
There’s simply no room for sentiment in Spanish football.
Look at Sevilla, for example, who were barred from retiring the number 16 jersey for Antonio Puerta – the wing-back who suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during a match in 2007.
As a result, the club have instead set an unofficial rule that only youth products could wear the No.16 jersey, and Puerta’s old friend and former academy teammate Jesus Navas – who returned to the club last season – is the current holder.
And let’s be honest; Barcelona will never be short of great players.
Sure, there may never be another Messi, but there’ll surely be another player capable of wearing their fabled No.10
For example, if Neymar had stuck around, then few people would’ve batted an eyelid if he’d taken up the number one day.
And you never know, little Thiago, Ciro or Mateo might have their eyes on their father’s famous No.10 for themselves one day.
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