Lionel Messi has had a long and successful career. Several players have had the good fortune to play alongside the diminutive Argentinian throughout his 17-year career.
Given Messi’s lengthy career, it’s easy to conclude that the boy from Rosario has seen his fair share of world-class footballers.
Prior to this summer’s transfer window, Messi had spent his entire club career at Barcelona. Messi, however, left the Catalan giants in August to sign a two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain, a move that was previously thought to be impossible.
While his career in France is still in its early stages, Messi brings a wealth of experience from his time at Camp Nou. Many of his former Barcelona teammates have retired and moved on to the next stage of their careers.
On that note, five of Messi’s former Barcelona teammates have taken on managerial roles.
Number 5: Juliano Belletti
Juliano Belletti had a successful club and international career.
During his playing career, the Brazilian played for several clubs, including Villarreal, Chelsea, and Barcelona. Belletti was a key figure in the Barcelona setup from 2004 to 2007, playing alongside Lionel Messi as a right-back.
Barcelona fans remember Belletti fondly for his performance in the 2006 UEFA Champions League final. Belletti only had one goal for the club in three years, but it was the game-winning goal against Arsenal in the final.
Before joining Chelsea in 2007, he won one La Liga and one UEFA Champions League with the Blaugrana. Belletti was at Stamford Bridge for three years, winning one Premier League title and two FA Cups.
Belletti made his managerial debut in February 2021, when he was named assistant manager of his former club Cruzeiro. He is still in charge.
Number 4: Giovanni van Bronckhorst
Another player who had the good fortune to play alongside Lionel Messi is Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
The Dutchman left Arsenal in 2003 and spent four seasons with Barcelona before returning to his boyhood club Feyenoord. Van Bronckhorst could play as a midfielder as well as a wing-back, primarily on the left side.
He was at the Camp Nou for four seasons, winning two La Liga titles and one UEFA Champions League. He had a successful career and had previously won silverware with Arsenal.
In July 2011, it was announced that Van Bronckhorst would join his boyhood club Feyenoord as assistant manager. He was appointed manager in 2015 and led the Dutch club for four years.
He won the Dutch Eredivisie and the KNVB Cup three times. Van Bronckhorst announced in 2020 that he had joined the Chinese club Guangzhou R&F as their full-time manager. He stayed in China for nearly a year before returning to his family.
Number 3: Victor Valdes
The former goalkeeper played for Barcelona for 12 years and was hugely successful at Camp Nou.
The shot-stopper was a key figure during Barcelona’s dominant era, and he significantly contributed to the club’s success. With the Catalan club, he won six La Liga titles, two Copa del Reys, six Supercopas, and three UEFA Champions Leagues, making him one of their most successful players.
Valdes announced in 2018 that he had completed his coaching badges and would take over as manager of amateur side ED Moratalaz. He was appointed manager of UA Horta in May 2020 and will leave in 2021.
Number 2: Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in football history.
The Frenchman spent three years at Barcelona, where he lined up in attack alongside Lionel Messi. He spent time at Arsenal, Barcelona, and the New York Red Bulls, all of which were memorable stops.
Henry is a club legend at Arsenal and widely regarded as one of the best attackers in the game’s history. He was with the Gunners for eight years, winning several trophies and becoming the club’s all-time leading goalscorer.
His three years with Barcelona were also fruitful. With the Blaugrana, Henry won two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, and one UEFA Champions League. With Messi and Samuel Eto’o, he formed an excellent attacking partnership.
In 2016, Henry was named as an assistant coach for the Belgian national team, working alongside Roberto Martinez. He took over as full-time manager of his former club Monaco in 2018, before moving on to the MLS club Montreal Impact in 2019. He stayed there for two years before returning to the Belgian national team as an assistant coach in 2021.
Number 1: Xavi Hernandez
Xavi Hernandez is one of FC Barcelona’s most influential players in the club’s history.
Along with Lionel Messi, the Spaniard spent 17 years at the Camp Nou, winning several trophies and establishing the club’s dominance in Spain and Europe.
Xavi, along with Messi and Andres Iniesta, formed one of Barcelona’s most successful attacking trios. During his time at Barcelona, the Spaniard won eight La Liga titles, three Copa del Reys, and four UEFA Champions Leagues.
His best qualities were his precise passing and close control in tight quarters. Xavi and Iniesta are widely regarded as the greatest midfield duo in football history, having won every possible trophy for both club and country.
In May 2019, Xavi agreed to become the manager of Qatari club Al Sadd. He led the team to three domestic titles in two years before recently agreeing to return to Barcelona as first-team manager.
The agreement has been described as a poetic reunion of past and present, with the ex-Barcelona man tasked with restoring the club’s former glory years. Xavi arrives at Camp Nou at a difficult time for Barcelona, which is in debt and struggling on the field. Only time will tell if Xavi can replicate his success as a player with Barcelona.