BARCELONA (Reuters) – Lionel Messi is as big as his team Barcelona and deserves to have the club’s Camp Nou stadium named after him, former team mate Dani Alves has said, adding that the Argentinian will never find a better home than the Catalan side.
Alves said he shared Messi’s concern over how Barca was being run under former president Josep Maria Bartomeu and said the club should have showed more respect to their all-time top scorer, who threatened to walk out over the summer.
Messi eventually decided to stay with Barca as he did not wish to face a legal battle with the club but is into the final year of his contract and can leave for free next June unless he signs a new deal.
“Messi is as great as the badge of Barcelona. But as he could see that everything around him was a disaster, it’s understandable that he wanted to leave,” Alves told Catalan radio station Rac1 on Friday.
“He has done so much that he deserves to have the stadium named after him.”
Brazilian right back Alves, who spent years as Messi’s provider-in-chief at Barca and won three Champions League titles alongside him, also said he urged the forward to stay at the club.
“I told him not to leave Barca,” added Alves, 37, who left the club in 2016 to join Juventus and now plays for Brazilian side Sao Paulo.
“When the club was trying to get rid of me I told him so and he said to me ‘Don’t go, where could you go that is better than here?’. I told him the same thing (this summer). He didn’t reply but I know that he got the message.”
Barca have made a slow start to the La Liga season and have failed to win their last four outings, including losing 3-1 to Real Madrid last month.
“Barcelona has changed its philosophy so its normal that it’s having problems right now,” Alves added.
“It has lost its identity and now it has to go through a tough process to get it back.”