The Argentine forward is already in his thirties and edging closer towards retirement.

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"Messi decides to hang his boots" this is the six-word horror story for every Barcelona fan right now. The Blaugrana almost caved to third division side Ibiza in the cup tie and lost 2-0 to a primarily docile Valencia, the only way one Barca looked like scoring was through Lionel Messi.

This has been the scenario with Barcelona in the last couple of years. In spite of signing Antoinne Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Barca have not found a striker who is as prolific in front of the goal as their world-famous trio Messi-Suarez-Neymar. Since Ousmane Dembele has been ruled out for the season with a hamstring injury, and Luis Suarez out for at least four months following his knee surgery, Barcelona are left with only three attacking options. Messi, Griezmann and Ansu Fati. Messi is not impressed with any of his recent striking partners and one doesn't have to look any further to see that. His frown gives it away.

Barcelona have tried to splash money, buy the best and most promising goals scorers but nothing has worked till now. With the Argentine maestro and the Uruguayan goal-machine not getting any younger, much to the dismay of the fans and Quique Setien, the obvious question is, how can Barcelona solve this mystery?

Striking concerns

One thing even the most faithful Barcelona would agree with is that the relationship between Barcelona and centre-forwards have always been topsy-turvy. In a team where Samuel Eto'o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic couldn't find their feet, it is difficult to find a striker who would.

Barcelona tried to bring in reinforcements in the winter transfer window but everything fell apart due to lack of integrity in the management. The Rodrigo saga is some kind of a slap on the face of the Catalan giants. Barcelona couldn't afford to pay the buyout money for the 28-year-old Spaniard and with the deadline approaching, Barcelona went for Everton star Richarlison but their huge 85 million-euro-bid was rejected by Everton.

Barcelona can still sign another player given that both the players are going to be unavailable for the rest of season. Under article 124.3, if the players are out for more than five months, the club can sign a player but the transfer should not require an International certificate. So, now Barcelona can only sign players in Spain. Looking at the available players whom Barcelona can approach at this point of time, the chances of a long-term replacement looks bleak.

Christian Stuani, Carlos Bacca and Jaime Mata are on the wrong side of the thirties and will not be suitable replacements given the present scenario. This leaves only Rodrigo Moreno and Willian Jose as Barca's best bets. Willian Jose has scored only eight goals in 21 appearances for Real Sociedad.

All said and done, it is also the prerogative of selling club to let go of one of their star players outside of the transfer window. Given the current climate of footballers where clubs try to hold on to their star players for as long as possible, the chances that Barca poach a marquee forward remains bleak. However if they succeed, the management needs to decide whether to go for a long-term solution or to go for a make-shift fix.

The verbal tussle between Messi and club director Eric Abidal is also another manifestation of Barca need to step up their game right now or the post-Messi doesn't look very bright for the Catalan giants.

Feature image courtesy: AFP/Ander Gillenea