Ronald Koeman hails ‘crucial’ Lionel Messi after Athletic Club win

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has backed captain Lionel Messi after a controversial 24 hours for the Argentinian.

Messi was the subject of a ‘leak’ within Spanish media sources overnight, with details of his salary package at the Camp Nou revealed, with the club forced to confirm they were not behind report.

However, despite the negativity surrounding Messi’s ongoing commitment to the Catalan giants, Koeman has offered his support to the 33-year old, after he played a key role in their 2-1 La Liga win over Athletic Bilbao.

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi

“We have known for a long time that he is the best in the world and he has done a lot for the club,” he told an interview with Marca.

“He has been decisive in the game and he remains motivated.

“You have to respect everything he has done for Barcelona.

“What has been published should be put aside, but it is complicated.

“He is a great player, that gives us creativity in attack. Without Leo you cannot aspire to many things.”

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi

Messi netted his 650th Barcelona goal against Marcelino’s visitors thanks to a superb free kick, with Antoine Griezmann adding a late winner for Koeman’s hosts.

Barcelona will travel to Granada in their Copa del Rey quarter final clash in Andalucia in midweek before returning to La Liga action against Real Betis next weekend.

Barcelona have now moved above rivals Real Madrid in the table, with a ten point gap behind league leaders Atletico Madrid.

Tags Lionel Messi Ronald Koeman