Lionel Messi: Four different ways Barcelona can line up in 2020/21 to support their talisman

Barcelona need to find a way to better support Lionel Messi in 2020/21

It really does feel like Lionel Messi's time at Barcelona is drawing to a close.

After Friday night's 8-2 mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, it seems plausible that Messi will have to leave Catalonia to make the best of his twilight years.

Barca are a mess on and off the pitch. The club's recruitment has been woeful since the departure of Neymar and far too many players are way past their sell by date.

They're an ageing team reliant on Messi and the performance against Bayern was nothing short of embarrassing.

In the aftermath of the game, the narrative has switched to what Barca do next. Can they bounce back in 2020/21?

Messi vs Bayern

Of course they can. While the defence requires some serious investment this summer, the rest of the squad is still littered with world-class talent.

Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic are evidently not good enough to start for the club regularly anymore, but we've created four different midfield and forward lineups without using that trio.

You can view all four below and on paper, they look as if they could offer Messi the support he requires and relieve some of the attacking burden that is clearly weighing on his shoulders.

1. Copying Bayern Munich

Team 1

Bayern implemented a 4-2-3-1 formation to perfection against Barca and it could be a setup the Spanish side look to mimic.

Antoine Griezmann would take up the 'Thomas Muller role', with pace on the wings provided by Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele, leaving Messi to operate as a 'false nine' with freedom.

It doesn't quite have the power of Bayern's formidable lineup, but it looks far more balanced than Quique Setien's starting XI that were picked apart in Lisbon.

2. Pace on the wings + creativity in midfield

Team 2

If Griezmann and Messi fail to click as a partnership, then there's the option to bolster the midfield and push the wingers even higher up the pitch.

Philippe Coutinho or Riqui Puig would then drop in as an extra midfielder to provide a creative spark alongside Frenkie de Jong and either Sergio Busquets or summer signing Miralem Pjanic.

With Messi as the focal point of the attack, the full-backs would likely be offered more defensive support from Fati and Dembele to further balance the team.

3. Griezmann and Messi interchanging 

Team 3

There is the very real possibility that Messi would be against operating as a false nine, in which case the role should be taken up by Griezmann.

The Frenchman's willingness to track back would help cover the space on the right left by Messi when the Argentine inevitably drifts into the centre of the pitch.

Then you have the same midfield options as our second lineup, with one of Fati and Dembele out on the left to provide some much-needed pace.

4. Narrow but creative

Team 4

We saw Setien experiment with a narrow 4-4-2 against Bayern and it proved to be disastrous.

Vidal on the left of a diamond and Sergi Roberto on the right? It was a car crash waiting to happen, but there is potential for the setup to work with different personnel.

An injection of creativity from Coutinho and Puig, combined with the selfless playing style of Griezmann, would surely make the system far more flexible and tailored to the needs of Messi.

Messi & Griezmann in action

Of course, all four formations count for nothing if the correct manager isn't appointed and the defence isn't bolstered in the coming months.

But the idea that Barca don't have the talent within their ranks to mount some sort of a comeback in 2020/21 is just wrong.

Coutinho needs to be back in the first-team fold, while Pjanic could prove to be an astute acquisition if Busquets' rapid decline continues.

De Jong, Fati, Puig and Dembele are all young, exciting players, ones capable of reviving the club's best form on the pitch.

Dembele with Barcelona

The days of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Suarez and Neymar are over for Messi, but there might just be enough at Barcelona to fulfil his ambitions for the next few years.

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