Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman offered his thoughts on Lionel Messi’s recent criticism of the club in the wake of Luis Suarez’s departure for Atletico Madrid.
The Argentina international ripped the club for their decision to let the 33-year-old go after six years at the Camp Nou in a post on Instagram on Friday. Koeman was asked about Messi’s latest outburst in his pre-match press conference and tried to play down the situation.
“I think it’s normal that a player is sad when his friend has to leave the club after so many years they’ve spent together, that’s part of football. The most important thing to me is how Leo’s been in training and matches. He’s been an example to everyone, showing his commitent to the club and the team. I’ve not seen him once affected in training or having taken a step back and now he’s going to show in the matches. I have no doubts about Leo Messi.”
Koeman also insisted the decision to let Suarez go was not solely his. He explained that the club had already been planning to offload players before he arrived as Quique Setien’s replacement in August
“It seemed that I am the bad guy in this movie and it is not like that, since the call I have shown respect for him and I have always told him that it can be difficult to play, but if you stay, he will be one of the squad.
“Before I signed the contract, the club was thinking about things, and I have tried to support those things. They are not just decisions of the coach. I respect Luis and we have spoken clearly about his future. He had the opportunity to go to Atlético and I wish all the luck in the world.”
Koeman was also asked about potential replacement for Suarez. The club have until October 5 to bring in replacements before the transfer window closes. Barcelona have been linked with both Inter striker Lautaro Martinez and Lyon captain Memphis Depay, and Koeman added that at this point “nothing is ruled out.”
The coach will take charge of Barcelona for the first time in La Liga on Sunday at the Camp Nou against Villarreal. Koeman insisted his side were ready for the match but acknowledged the visitors may have a slight advantage as they have already played two fixtures.