Samuel Eto’o insists Lionel Messi is so important to Barcelona the club will need to change their name if the Argentine departs this summer.
Messi and Eto’o played alongside each other at Camp Nou between 2004 and 2009, winning six major honours including the historic treble of the 2008/09 campaign.
But Barcelona’s fortunes have taken a turn for the worse over the last 12 months, with two managers sacked and the club failing to win any silverware during a season capped by a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich.
The downturn in form has led to speculation Messi could depart this summer, and Eto’o believes such an exit would leave Barcelona devoid of identity.
“I love Messi like he was my own son, I want the best for him. Barcelona is Messi, and I think if Messi decides to leave, we’ll have to change the name of the club,” Eto’o told Argentine broadcaster TyCSports .
“We are lucky in that at Barcelona, we have the best player in the world and of all-time, we have to do everything possible to ensure he finishes his career at Barcelona.”
Though Messi, 33, is not seeking a bumper deal elsewhere, he is reportedly desparate to join a club capable of winning the Champions League.
The Barcelona captain promised to bring the trophy back to Camp Nou in 2018 but his team have since been upset by Liverpool in last year’s semi finals and thrashed by Bayern in last week’s quarter-final.
Eto’o admitted even he was shaken by the 8-2 drubbing, adding: “I really suffered myself with that defeat, not just for Leo, but for all of the lads.
“Someone who has never played the game will find it hard to understand, but these things exist in football – and in life too.
“Anyone can suffer a fall, but you have to get up again, and that is the most difficult part.
“The players, the bosses, the fans… I hope that we can lift ourselves up from this and begin to dream again for next season.”