Lionel Messi is bigger than Barcelona and indispensable - Javier Mascherano
Lionel Messi is the exception to the rule that no player is bigger than their club, his Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano has said.
Mascherano's comments came as he pointed out the Barcelona had continued to enjoy success despite the departures of key figures such as Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez and Dani Alves in recent years.
But he said Messi -- who has won 28 trophies with Barca since 2005 -- is so good that he breaks the rule that says no individual is more important than a club.
"[Messi] is indispensable, but the rest of us are dispensable," Mascherano said in an interview with Barcelona's official magazine.
"Leo is a unique player. We're talking about the best player in history, for this club and for the sport.
"Important people have left Barca in recent years, people that will stay in the club's history, but the team still works, it still wins.
"No, the club is bigger than any manager, than any player... except Leo. That's the reality, and you have to accept it."
Five time Ballon d'Or winner Messi's contract with Barca is due to expire next summer and the club are trying to get him to extend his stay at the Camp Nou.
Officials remain confident of striking an agreement, and Mascherano said he could not imagine Messi leaving.
"I can't speak in Leo's name, but in my personal opinion the marriage between Barca and Leo has had a lot of joy for a long time and there's still time for more," he added.
"I don't see any reason for a divorce because both parties benefit from the relationship and I think that can continue.
"In my opinion, I can't imagine Leo playing for another team at this level."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.