'It is his home' - Koeman welcomes potential Messi return to Barcelona

By Sports Desk April 12, 2023

Ronald Koeman has welcomed the idea of Lionel Messi making a return to Barcelona and believes the Argentina star is still the best player in the world.

The former Barcelona boss was in charge during Messi's last season with the Catalan club before he made an emotional exit on a free transfer to French giants Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca sacked the Dutchman in October 2021 after a poor run of form with the 60-year-old now returning to manage the Netherlands national team following the retirement of Louis van Gaal after the World Cup in Qatar. 

Koeman himself will not be returning to Barcelona any time soon, but he still holds out hopes that Messi will make a romantic return to the club, amid speculation such a move is in the works.

"Messi is the best player in the world and when he left it was difficult," he said at the Koeman Cup, a charity golf and paddle event. 

"The team that has him is going to be stronger. His departure from Barca was a very bad day.

"If I see Leo with another shirt it hurts me. It's his home, where he needs to be. It was not good that the board did not give him the possibility to stay, but I am in favour of Messi being a Barca player."

Since his sacking, Koeman's successor Xavi has led Barcelona on an inspired league run this season with the side 13 points clear at the top of LaLiga with just 10 games remaining.

"With Xavi they have improved and will surely win the league," Koeman said of the head coach. 

"It's a much-improved squad. A coach is good or bad depending on his players. For me, we have to celebrate this league in a big way because we are talking about several previous seasons that Barca has not won anything. 

"Barca are there for their own quality and for their defence. It should be noted that they have only conceded nine goals. It is deserved and if the others have not been at this level, it is their problem."

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    Having won late against Czechia in their opening game of the tournament, Roberto Martinez's side knew an improved display was needed on matchday two in Dortmund.

    The Selecao dominated from start to finish, with defensive errors aiding their triumph as Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes netted either side of a calamitous Samet Akaydin own goal.

    Portugal now have the luxury of being able to rest key players when they face Georgia in Gelsenkirchen next Wednesday. 

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    A slick move down the left-hand side saw Nuno Mendes' delivery deflect kindly into the path of Silva, who swept the ball home from inside the area for his first goal at a major tournament.

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    The Selecao further extended their advantage 10 minutes into the second half, profiting from more poor defending from Vincenzo Montella's side. 

    A simple ball over the top picked out Ronaldo as he was played onside by Zeki Celik, and with the goal at his mercy, he unselfishly squared for Fernandes to tap home. 

    Portugal tried to add to their tally as Silva saw his effort blocked late on, but they did not need a fourth as they clinched progression to the last 16.

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    "We were able to equalise, we were going at them but we were not able to score a second goal and in the end we made a stupid mistake and could have lost. 

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    3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    4. George Russell (Mercedes)

    5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

    6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

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    10. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

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