Lionel Messi can still compete at the highest level and win trophies for another four years, predicts former Barcelona friend Puyol

LIONEL MESSI still has “three or four years” of playing at the highest level, Carles Puyol insisted.

The 33-year-old has been the star of the Barcelona show since his debut for the Spanish giant in 2004.

Lionel Messi and Carles Puyol were photographed together during the 2012 Barcelona match

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Lionel Messi and Carles Puyol were photographed together during the 2012 Barcelona matchCredits: Getty Images – Getty

But Messi is linked with leaving the Nou Camp when his contract expires next summer.

Inter Milan and Manchester City are on a long list of teams that allegedly want to sign him.

Barcelona legend Puyol predicted that Messi would continue to play at the highest level “for a while”.

Addressing Goal, the veteran defender said: “He is now 33 years old and takes care of himself.

“He is motivated and impatient and I think he has three or four years left at this level if he is lucky enough not to have serious injuries and if he continues to play with the same desire to improve and continue to win, with that motivation.

“I think we have Leo for a while.”

Asked how Messi managed to achieve such a long and successful career, Puyol continued: “I am sure that talent is not enough.

“Talent is needed, of course, but also work and dedication, a desire to learn and motivation for the daily search for new challenges. We saw that with Messi.

“Today he is not the same player as he was when he started.

“He added records and improved, he is a very complete player who can set the rhythm of the game, score free kicks, goals, provide assists. He does practically everything!

“In the beginning he was very good, but one of those players you give the ball to and he makes his individual move. He made a difference and scored goals.

“He was already very good [at a young age], but over the years he has become an even more impressive player, the best of all time. “

Puyol – who retired in 2014 – was on the team when Messi made his debut at the club 16 years ago.

Revealing his first impressions of Messi, Puyol said: “I knew he was a very good player.

“I was lucky to come from the academy and you are always aware of the players who came, so you can try to help them as they did with me in my time.

“When he arrived, he showed that he is a very good player, but even those who trusted him the most could not even imagine what he became.

Lionel Messi made 749 appearances for Barcelona

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Lionel Messi made 749 appearances for Barcelona Credits: Getty Images – Getty

“From the first day, he showed his quality with humility and the way he does it. He would pick up the ball and head towards the goal, he didn’t care who was in front of him.

“He always did everything with great respect and humility.”

Messi made history by reaching 644. a club goal for Barcelona to break Pele’s record this week.

He scored a total of 644 goals and scored 279 assists in 749 appearances.

He helped steer them to 10 La Liga titles, four Champions League titles and lifted six King’s Cup trophies.

Watch Lineker talk about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s legendary rivalry in a BT Sport commercial

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