Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has offered some revealing insight into what it was like to work with Argentina international Lionel Messi on the training ground.
“We always play a rondo before training. If the ball goes around 20 times, then the players in the middle must have an extra turn. If that happens three times in a row, the players will form two lines and the two who were in the middle then walk through and get taps on their heads and such,” he said. “I asked Messi if it had happened to him once. ‘Yes, once,’ he said. In all those years. With him, the older players never lost an exercise against the young. It happened once and Messi was seriously angry about that for a week. Really, a tyrant.”
Koeman also revealed how some of Messi’s Barcelona teammates would often spend time “fooling around” but the captain would always maintain his intensity.
“When we did a finishing practice during training, there were sometimes players who started to hit easy balls, a bit of fooling around,” he added. “But with Messi everything was: boom, boom, boom, boom. Never frills, everything functional. And always wanted to win everything.”
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Koeman Admits Messi Is ‘Not Normal’
Messi’s departure from Barcelona after two decades at the club came as a huge shock and the Catalan giants are still adjusting to life without arguably their greatest ever player.
Koeman’s side have started the league season with two wins and two draws but have been far from impressive. The coach feels that Messi’s brilliance often masked the team’s flaws.
“Lionel Messi has obscured everything. He was so good and he won,” he added. “Of course he had good players around him, but he made the difference. Everyone seems better than they are because of him. This is not a criticism, but an observation.”
Messi In The Spotlight at PSG
Messi moved to Paris Saint-Germain and has unsurprisingly been in the spotlight since signing for the French side. The Argentine has made three appearances for his new club but is still waiting for his first goal.
The 34-year-old was even substituted in his last appearance against Lyon by manager Mauricio Pochettino and didn’t appear to be too impressed by his coach’s decision, as shown by beIN Sports.
PSG went on to win the game 2-1 thanks to an injury-time winner from substitute Mauro Icardi, and Pochettino defended his decision to substitute Messi after the game by explaining he was concerned about a potential injury.
“Leo was looking at his knee,” he said, according to BBC Sport. “He played very well in the first half, and the only thing missing was a goal. He played for 76 minutes and, with all the information we had, we decided to take him off.”
Messi was not named in the squad for PSG’s next game against Metz due to a knee problem, although it’s not clear how serious the problem is and if it means the Argentine is set for a spell on the sidelines.