Ronald Koeman has spoken out about how important he sees Lionel Messi as being to his project at Barcelona and that “Barça has been, is and will always be a better team with Lionel Messi”.
Koeman was speaking to Sport about a variety of topics, but the headline seized upon is unsurprisingly to do with the future of the club’s greatest ever footballer.
Messi tried to force a move away from Barcelona, the club with which he’s spent his entire career, during the summer, so disillusioned was he with the lack of a sporting project that he could believe in. Messi hasn’t won the Champions League since 2015, a five year period that has encapsulated arguably his best years as a footballer.
“They had already told me that Messi was unhappy,” Koeman revealed. “We spoke at his house. He gave me his reasons and I explained to him what I could change. I was honest – I told him the only thing I could change was the football.
“I could do my job, implement my system, convey the position I conceived he would play on the pitch and his importance as a player. I told him that the problems he had with the club I couldn’t change. In the end, staying was his decision.
“The feeling I got from him was good, and that’s important. Messi has shown me that he’s an ambitious person who wants to win things. He wants to continue being the best, even if he has problems with the club.
“I want the best for the team, and the best thing for the team is that Leo is well, as he is now, plugged in and engaged. He showed it the other day, against Real Betis, when he entered in the second half. To this day, Barça has been, is and will always be a better team with Lionel Messi than without him.”
Barcelona are currently eighth in LaLiga, nine points behind league leaders Real Sociedad and five clear of bottom-placed Huesca. Their domestic form is patchy – they have just one win in their last five, and will look to improve after the international break should they intend on reaching their ordinary level.
Featured image courtesy of The Telegraph.