Messi disguised all of Barcelona's problems – Koeman

By Sports Desk September 22, 2021

Lionel Messi was like a "tyrant" in training and helped to "disguise everything" wrong at Barcelona in recent years, according to head coach Ronald Koeman.

Barca were left without their talisman in August when Messi departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after they were unable to fulfil a new contract that had been agreed with the superstar forward.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored 672 goals and assisted 265 more across 778 appearances during a trophy-laden 17-season spell at Camp Nou.

Koeman's side have made a slow start to the post-Messi era, having dropped points to Athletic Bilbao and Granada in their first four LaLiga games and lost 3-0 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

And with his job reportedly under threat amid speculation Barca are ready to move for Roberto Martinez, Koeman accepts Messi's performances papered over the cracks for too long.

"Lionel Messi disguised everything. He was so good and he won," Koeman told Voetbal International. "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. I knew how good he is, but it's still nice to see it up close every day.

"Everything you would like to teach a football player, in recognising situations, in taking the ball under pressure, in ball speed, in finishing; with Messi everything is a 10. Not normal, not normal!

 

"When we did a finishing practice during training, there were sometimes players who started to hit easy balls, a bit of fooling around. But with Messi everything was: boom, boom, boom, boom.

"Never frills, everything functional. And he always wanted to win everything. 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.

"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."

Messi failed in an attempt to force through a move away from Barcelona last year and went on to score 38 goals in 47 games last season – 18 goals more than Barca's next-highest scorer Antoine Griezmann, who has also departed the club.

That includes 30 goals in LaLiga, which was an increase on the 25 managed in the season before Koeman arrived.

Koeman fears Messi's departure could have a major knock-on effect, with the standards of some players – fellow academy graduate Ansu Fati among them – slipping since Messi signed for PSG.

"He delivered 50 goals last year: 30 goals, 20 assists. He was an example for others," Koeman said. "When we won the cup, Messi had won so many trophies, bigger than this one, but you saw that the Copa del Rey really did something for him this time. 

"With those young players in there, he saw the future of the club. All those guys wanted to take a picture with him, I've never seen anything like it. That's how big he was and is. It was a shock to the whole town that he's not here now."

 

Koeman added: "The performance with Messi is perfect. We now sometimes do a pass and kick practices, where you had to shoot the ball into a small goal, around a post. 

"The other day I saw Ansu Fati shoot three metres wide, simply due to lack of concentration. But he wouldn't have done that if Messi had still been there. Then, he got set right, Messi became furious. That never happened to [Messi].

"I have never met anyone except Johan Cruyff with his football intelligence. Alfred [Schreuder, Koeman's assistant] sometimes explained the exercises in English and Messi does not speak that very well. But after a few seconds he knew it."

Despite his job being under threat ahead of Thursday's trip to Cadiz, Koeman stands by his decision to step down as Netherlands boss in August 2020 to take over at Camp Nou.

"I do not regret signing for Barcelona and leaving the Dutch team," he said. "It's in situations like these that I get the best out of myself and my team."

Related items

  • 'We needed a miracle' – Arteta proud of Arsenal progress but Champions League failure hurting Gunners boss 'We needed a miracle' – Arteta proud of Arsenal progress but Champions League failure hurting Gunners boss

    Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta knew his side needed a miraculous turnaround in fortunes to make the Champions League, but that does not stop the failure hurting him.

    The Gunners defeated Everton 5-1 at Emirates Stadium on Sunday, yet the result merely capped off what will ultimately prove a frustrating season.

    Arsenal lost their opening three Premier League matches of the season but enjoyed a resurgence, with the emergence of young talents such as Emile Smith Rowe and Eddie Nketiah helping them push on for a top-four place.

    Arteta's team were firmly in the driving seat before taking on Tottenham in the north London derby on May 12, yet a heavy defeat to their rivals, followed by a 2-0 reverse at Newcastle United on Monday, left Arsenal needing Spurs to slip up against already relegated Norwich City on the final day of the season.

    And while Arsenal did their bit against a much-changed Everton side – Frank Lampard's team had secured safety with a draining 3-2 comeback win against Crystal Palace on Thursday – Spurs romped to a 5-0 victory at Carrow Road, ensuring they would be the ones to take the final Champions League spot.

    Arsenal must settle for fifth and a place in the Europa League, a fact that leaves Arteta hugely frustrated.

    He told a news conference "We did what we had to do. We needed a miracle, it didn't occur. That's it.

    "At the end of the season the table doesn't lie. It's true, last season Chelsea were in the Champions League with 67 points. We have 69 and we are out of it. But that's the level and the demands that this league has now.

    "I cannot assess the season, I'm still in a lot of pain after what happened on Monday and I would like to have a fair assessment on what we've done.

    "What I can guarantee you is we have tried to squeeze the lemon, to every single bit of juice that would come, and we have reached the point where we have reached.

    "You see what we have on the pitch, we know where we have to go. We have generated the expectations that I wanted for this football club. In the end we came short and that feeling of guilt is painful."

    Arsenal had gone unbeaten in their final league game in each of the last 16 seasons and that record never looked in danger of not being extended against Everton, who have lost their final league game in five of the last six campaigns.

    Gabriel Martinelli's penalty and Eddie Nketiah's header put Arsenal 2-0 up inside 31 minutes, with second-half strikes from Cedric Soares, Gabriel Magalhaes and Martin Odegaard rendering Donny van de Beek's goal a consolation. 

    Nketiah, who has scored five league goals this season, is one of three players soon to be out of contract at Arsenal, and he was replaced by Alexandre Lacazette midway through the second half – the Frenchman's deal is also up at the end of June.

    Mohamed Elneny played the full 90 minutes on what could also be his final Gunners appearance, and Arteta revealed the decisions have been made on the trio's future, though it was unclear whether any of them would be staying on.

    "It's been decided, but it's very difficult to communicate it," he said.

    "What they deserve is to have a little bit of what they had today, but to do it earlier with three situations like that is very awkward and could effect the team.

    "Those players know their situation, when it is going to be communicated and those players will know face to face, which is what they deserve."

    Only in 1993-94 (22) have Everton lost more games in a Premier League season than the 21 defeats they have suffered in the competition this term, but having achieved his goal of keeping them up, Lampard is now eager to look to the future.

    He told reporters: "We want to improve in a lot of ways. The way we played in the past month has been fantastic. 

    "You can never stand still and relax in this game. The reasons why we were in a relegation fight was very real and we need to improve."

  • 'I will be their biggest fan' – Mbappe thanks Real Madrid for interest after choosing PSG 'I will be their biggest fan' – Mbappe thanks Real Madrid for interest after choosing PSG

    Paris Saint-Germain superstar Kylian Mbappe thanked Real Madrid for their efforts as he took to Twitter on Sunday night to explain his decision to stay in France.

    Mbappe had for a long time appeared likely to leave PSG at the end of his contract and sign for admirers Madrid, but he ultimately decided to shun his childhood dream club.

    The World Cup winner's 28 goals and 17 assists led both Ligue 1 charts this season, with his 45 goal involvements – arriving every 67 minutes on average – the most across Europe's top five leagues.

    Those talents will not be turning out in Madrid colours, though.

    In his Twitter post, Mbappe thanked Madrid and their president Florentino Perez and said he will remain a fan of the Spanish giants.

    "Today I wanted to announce that I have chosen to extend my contract at Paris Saint-Germain," he wrote.

    "I'm convinced that I can continue to grow here, at a club which is giving itself every means to reach the top. 

    "I would like to thank the president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, for his confidence, his attention and his patience. 

    "I also have a thought for all of the PSG supporters, in France and around the world, for their countless shows of affection, especially in these last few months.

    "I am very happy to continue playing in France, the country where I was born, grew up and blossomed."

    Mbappe added: "I would also like to sincerely thank Real Madrid and their president Florentino Perez. I am aware of the chance and privilege I had at being coveted by such an institution. 

    "I can imagine their disappointment. It is as big as my own hesitations. 

    "I will be their biggest fan in the Champions League final in Paris. At my home."

    Mbappe is due to meet with the media on Monday to further discuss his decision to remain at PSG.

  • Livingstone shines once more as Kings close IPL season by defeating Hyderabad Livingstone shines once more as Kings close IPL season by defeating Hyderabad

    Punjab Kings closed their 2022 Indian Premier League season with a five-wicket victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in Mumbai.

    Liam Livingstone led the way for the Kings with an impressive knock of 49 from 22 balls as they condemned Hyderabad to a sixth defeat in seven matches with four overs to spare.

    Hyderabad won the toss and elected to bat first in the final match of the regular season, which pitted two teams that had failed to qualify for the play-offs.

    Despite the early dismissal of Priyam Garg for just four, Abhishek Sharma (43) and Rahul Tripathi (20) moved Hyderabad to 61-1 before the latter was caught at short fine leg.

    Aiden Markram (21), Washington Sundar (25) and Romario Shepherd (26 not out) added further contributions to the cause of Hyderabad, who set a target of 157-8.

    Jonny Bairstow (23) made the early running for the Kings before he was bowled by Fazalhaq Farooqi.

    Shahrukh Khan (19) and Mayank Agarwal (one) went in the space of two overs, but the 41-run partnership of Livingstone and Shikhar Dhawan put the Kings well in control.

    Despite Dhawan going for 39 to Farooqi, Livingstone was not to be moved as he hit four boundaries during the 15th over (two sixes and two fours) against Shepherd to move his side to the brink of victory, which was secured when Prerak Mankad hit the rope with his very first ball.

    Livingstone does the damage

    Once again, Livingstone produced an inspired batting display for the Kings with his knock of 49, including five sixes, although he narrowly missed out on a fifth half-century of the season, which would have moved him level with David Warner (five).

    Meanwhile, only Jos Buttler (37) bettered his tally of 34 sixes during the regular campaign.

    Three wickets for Brar

    While Livingstone led the way from the crease, Harpreet Brar shone with the ball.

    The spinner took three important wickets to stop Hyderabad in their tracks; ending Sharma and Tripathi's 47-run partnership by dismissing the latter, and finishing with an impressive 3-26 from his four overs.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.