Messi secured: Five things Barcelona need to do next

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Lionel Messi has committed his future to Barcelona until 2021, despite the Catalan giants losing their Liga crown and failing to make an impression on the Champions League last season.

Securing their talisman's future is Barca's first major move ahead of the 2017-18 season, where Ernesto Valverde will be at the helm, having replaced Luis Enrique.

But there is plenty more work to be done if Barca are to regain their standing atop Spanish and European football.

Here, we examine what should follow news of Messi's renewal.


KEEP NEYMAR HAPPY

There is little doubt that Messi rules the roost at Camp Nou, but the N in the MSN strikeforce will be pivotal in maintaining Barca's dominance when his partners in crime enter the twilight of their careers.

Though there is no sign that Messi, or Luis Suarez are beginning to slow down, at 25, Neymar is arguably yet to reach his full peak - perhaps evidenced by his slight dip in goalscoring last term.

A perception that Neymar is perhaps not seen as important at Barca appears to be of interest to many of their rivals - even Real Madrid are reported to have shown an interest in the Brazil star.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar's relationship off the field is as famous as theirs on it - Barca must keep the latter sweet if they are to be a force again.

 

Estava com Saudades gordoooo @luissuarez9

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SIGN ANOTHER STAR

Though MSN are racking up numbers and performances like no other strike force before them, there is not so much to be excited about elsewhere on the field.

Andres Iniesta, while still of silken touch and able to tear apart any defence, is a faded force at the age of 33 after a string of injuries and Gerard Pique is often left to hold a shaky defence on his broad shoulders.

The likes of Andre Gomes, Paco Alcacer and Arda Turan are recent examples of big-money Barca signings that have failed to add stardust.

In Marco Verratti, they have a potential target who could truly reach the upper echelons of the game and the Italian would complement Messi's brilliance from deep perfectly.


TRUST LA MASIA TO IMPROVE DEPTH

Gomes, Alcacer, Arda, Aleix Vidal, Lucas Digne - the past two years have not been stellar in the transfer market for Barca.

Perhaps contrary to popular perceptions, Barca do not operate with limitless funds and the fact that of those five players mentioned, only Digne appears to be wanted by the club - and as back-up at best - leaves one with the sense that a lot of cash has been wasted.

At their absolute best, Barcelona have always seen star talents augmented with homegrown talents, steeped in the virtues of La Masia, but in recent seasons several graduates have been allowed to leave.

Denis Suarez was brought back to Barca last year, as Gerard Deulofeu has been recently, while Marc Bartra enjoyed an impressive debut season at Borussia Dortmund in 2016-17 as Barca's backline routinely creaked when put to the test.


REGAIN A TRUE IDENTITY

While a return to the 'tiki'taka' suffocation of Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova is not a necessity, Barca were a team without a clear gameplan for much of Luis Enrique's reign.

The general approach of 'give it to MSN and let them do their thing' was of course good enough to beat most, but where was the trident's assistance when they were being held at arms length by the 'BBC' backline of Juventus?

Against the best, Barca must find different ways to do things, or risk becoming eminently beatable.


HELP VALVERDE HANDLE THE BIG NAMES

Much of this may come from the players themselves, but it is not uncommon for Barca coaches to struggle with the demands of keeping such a stellar squad happy - just ask Tata Martino.

Valverde's standing as a former Barca player, from the 'Dream Team' era of Johann Cruyff's stewardship no less, should command respect from the terraces, but the likes of Messi, Suarez, Neymar, Pique and Iniesta will play key roles in helping Valverde channel passions among the players.

A furious row with Messi early in Luis Enrique's tenure threatened the club badly, and it was only the Argentine's peace offering with the coach that allowed them to go on to win the treble.