‘It’s something which is in the air’: Barca boss Valverde gives warning over Messi retirement
Messi, 32, was recently crowned Ballon d’Or winner for a record sixth time, but spoke at the ceremony in Paris about how he was approaching the tail end of his glittering career.
“I enjoy these moments so much because I know that retirement is approaching. Time flies," the Argentine said.Also on rt.com REVEALED: Ballon d’Or voting numbers show Van Dijk came AGONIZINGLY close to pipping Messi to top prize
Barca boss Valverde has now cautioned that the footballing world should start preparing itself for life after Messi.
"[Messi’s retirement] is something natural, it seems normal,” Valverde said ahead of the Catalans' La Liga clash against Real Mallorca on Saturday.
“Leo is 32-years-old and although I don't think he's thinking about retiring now it's something which is in the air.
"But I don't think we should go crazy about it, we have to look at it naturally. Everyone thinks about retirement when they get to a certain age, but just because he's thinking about it doesn't mean he's going to retire in the next three days."
Valverde and Barca skipper Messi have won La Liga for the past two seasons together, as well as enjoying Copa del Rey success and a Spanish Super Cup.
The 55-year-old spoke of his privilege at managing Messi.
"I'm aware that I have the enormous fortune of being able to say in a few years I coached Leo.
"In the same way that older people talk about Di Stefano, we will be able to tell future generations that we lived through the Messi era and some people like me will be able to say we enjoyed it close up."Also on rt.com The joy of six: A look back at ALL of Lionel Messi’s Ballon d’Or triumphs as Barcelona star scoops record SIXTH accolade in Paris
Messi has reportedly hinted that he could see out the latter part of his career in the US or back in his Argentine homeland at boyhood club Newell's Old Boys.
Leagues in Japan, China or the Middle East could also offer a lucrative end to his playing days.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s game at the Nou Camp will offer a chance for home fans to serenade Messi on his latest Ballon d’Or, which moved him one ahead of great rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Barca sit top of La Liga on goal difference ahead of Real Madrid, with Sevilla one point behind but having played a game more. By the time Barca play on Saturday they could have dropped to second as Real play Espanyol in the early kick-off.
After missing the start of the season through injury, Messi has returned to hit 11 goals in 14 club appearances this season.