Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta: How Long Can Barca Keep Them Together?

Samuel PostContributor IIJanuary 15, 2013

BARCELONA, SPAIN - APRIL 03:  Andres Iniesta (C) of FC Barcelona celebrates scoring with his teammates Lionel Messi (R) and Xavi Hernandez during the Champions League quarter-final second leg match between FC Barcelona and AC Milan at the Camp Nou stadium on April 3, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Messi, Xavi and Iniesta: few would argue that there is a more lethal attacking combination in all of world football. But how long can it last?

The Barcelona trio have led their team to no fewer than 10 trophies in the past four years, comprising three of the top four in FIFA's Ballon d'Or player rankings in the process. Indeed, one could make the case that the diminutive hat trick of Catalonians make for the most potent attacking force in the history of club football.

And if they aren't yet considered so, they surely will be when all is said and done, as these three have plenty of time left together on the pitch.

Iniesta's contract is the first to expire in 2015. The Spanish playmaker is unlikely to request a move or be lured away from the Camp Nou before then or after, as he has repeatedly expressed his desire and intention to remain at the club for the duration of his career. 

Messi recently agreed to a contract extension that keeps him at the club until 2018. Like Iniesta, he grew up a Barcelona player. Given the success he has had with his compatriots at the club, it's no surprise he sees little reason to leave for the foreseeable future. His rumored rejection of a colossal bid from Russian club Anzhi only underscores the point: Messi doesn't just play for the money. And what else would take him away from Barcelona?

Xavi—at 32, the oldest of the three by a good margin—signed his own contract extension in December. After spending his entire career honing his craft at the Camp Nou it seems inconceivable that he would transfer to another club at this late stage.

More likely, he will be the first of the three to bow out of the picture by virtue of retirement. Though he excels as a player with no distinguishing physical attributes, at some point pure fitness will become a concern, especially considering Barcelona's high-pressure style of defending. By the time his contract is up in 2016, the next crop of talented young midfielders will have been knocking at the door for quite some time, and Xavi may finally find it difficult to keep up.

Player turnover at the biggest clubs in Europe is fast and furious. Barcelona, though, have managed to build a team around a core of youth players and hold onto them with some consistency. This generation of players in particular demonstrates the spirit and seriousness not only of Barcelona's youth development program, but of their commitment to keeping their best young players at the club. 

All signs, then, point to the enduring promise of this trio of geniuses, a hope that all Barcelona supporters—and football fans the world over—can be thankful for.