Xavi Hernandez has hailed Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto as the players to lead Barcelona into the next generation.
In an extended interview with Marca, the former Blaugrana star had words of encouragement for Busquets, whom he challenged to “take on the baton”, and Sergi following his promising start to the season at both right-back and through the middle.
“[On Barca coping without Lionel Messi], it’s not only Neymar,” he told Marca.
“I think everyone’s done spectacularly well without Leo, who is the worst possible absence for Barcelona and Argentina.
“Busquets, Andres [Iniesta], Sergi Roberto … everyone’s taken a step forward as a team.
“It’s not only Neymar, who’s at an extraordinary level because he’s a fantastic player who can make a difference.
“Luis Suarez’s doing well in attack too, but there’s also Munir [El Haddadi] and Sandro [Ramirez], for example, who are giving assists and winning penalties.
“[On how far Sergi Roberto can go], the key here is trust, and he’s showed a consistently high level after playing three, four, five games straight.
“Sergi has a lot of quality, both technically and physically. He can adapt well out wide, inside and is having some great performances, like against Getafe.
“I’m happy for him because he’s a guy who’s not raised his voice, worked hard, been sincere and professional in his approach and there’s no reason why he can’t be called up by Spain.
“Busquets is a close friend of mine and I wish him well. He’s playing at an extraordinary level and making a difference in both assists and the dirty work when the pressure is on.
“He’s a key player for both Barcelona and the national team, and I’m happy for him.
“He has a big role in the squad and is the one to take the baton on the pitch and in the locker room in the coming years at Barcelona.
“[On playing under Luis Enrique], his philosophy is the same [as his predecessors].
“Luis Enrique has very clear ideas and transmits them [clearly] to the squad.
“We played extraordinary football last season, this year too. The attacking trident [Messi, Suarez and Neymar] will unlock many defences
“They create their own attacks and are one of the best tridents in history. Maybe that’s why we’re more direct now, but the idea is the same as always.
“Barcelona can’t lose this philosophy, the one which is respected worldwide.”