Luis Suarez will not try to convince Lionel Messi to join Atletico Madrid but would happily endorse the move if the Barcelona captain wanted to make it happen.

Messi failed to engineer a switch away from Camp Nou in the close season and his future at Barca remains uncertain, with his contract due to expire at the end of June.

The club's interim board and numerous presidential candidates have suggested that a projected loss of revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic means the six-time Ballon d'Or winner would need to agree a pay adjustment to stay beyond this campaign.

It was believed one of the motivating factors behind Messi's desire to leave before the start of the season was the treatment of close friend Suarez, who assisted more Barca goals for him (47) than any other player, following Ronald Koeman's appointment.

Suarez was deemed surplus to requirements and shipped off to Atletico for a nominal fee, but he does not intend to go out of his way to make Messi follow him.

"I'll always say it: Leo is mature enough to make the decisions he needs to make by himself. I'll never try to influence what he does; wherever he's happy, I'll always support his right to make the decision that's best for him," Suarez told AS.

"If at any point the possibility arises, then he should say so as obviously I'm going to talk very highly of him to the club.

"But as far as suggesting things to him is concerned, I think he's the one who has to make such decisions and wherever he's happiest is the best place for him to be."

Messi is yet to score from open play in nine appearances in all competitions this season and Koeman this week defended the Argentina international after footage of him failing to close down a player in the final moments of Barca's 2-1 Champions League victory over Dynamo Kiev went viral on social media.

Asked if Messi looked low on morale, Suarez said: "He's 33 years old and he knows how to deal with any situation.

"To me he looks like he has the same desire that he did before, is enjoying his football and is still fighting as hard as ever, which is the main thing. He keeps on trying even if the ball doesn't want to go in. That says a lot about him."

Messi's haul of 31 goals in all competitions last season – 15 of which were scored after Quique Setien replaced Ernesto Valverde as head coach in January – was his worst tally since registering 16 in 2007-08.

Setien, who was sacked after the 8-2 humiliation at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in August, this week said Messi was "difficult to manage", but Suarez painted a different picture.

"I'd rather not get into that, because it only helps to turn it into a bigger issue than it should be," said Suarez. 

"Any team-mate who has worked alongside Leo will talk highly of him, of what a class player he is and what a top guy he is away from the pitch. He really helps the youngsters, giving them pieces of advice.

"Every player who has worked with him talks highly of him. That says a lot about the kind of player and person he is in that dressing room."

Barcelona cannot afford to keep Lionel Messi at Camp Nou on his current salary, presidential candidate Toni Freixa has admitted.

Messi's contract is due to expire next year and the club's all-time record goalscorer and arguably greatest ever player may need some persuasion to stay beyond that.

Freixa has indicated it will not be through a pay rise or even a freeze on his wages that Barcelona invite Messi to extend his time at the club.

But Freixa is hopeful the 33-year-old Argentinian can be convinced to remain, despite Messi having pushed for the chance to leave in the close season.

Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu warned before his departure that the club would face a drastic drop in revenue of around €300million because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to El Curubito, Freixa underlined the financial problems facing Barcelona.

Freixa said: "We will speak calmly with Leo, face to face with the best for Barca as the objective.

"With him, as with all the players who have to renew or are signed, we will make an offer that of course will not be able to match the conditions that he has had up to now."

Messi is Barcelona's best-paid player, with wide-ranging estimates abounding about his exact annual salary which is assumed to run deep into eight figures. It may be that he is invited to defer part of his pay packet to be paid at a later date.

"It is obvious and we cannot deceive members that the proposal which we will offer [to Messi] will not be the same as he has had so far, because our income has fallen significantly and another formula will have to be found," Freixa said.

"You don't have to win over Messi or convince him with other things, you have to look him in the eye and talk, to know what each other wants, what he wants and what Barca wants. We think Messi still has a lot of football in him."

A hint of what Messi might expect came when Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong, Clement Lenglet and Marc-Andre ter Stegen last month signed contract extensions with Barcelona.

Those deals followed weeks of negotiations and included "temporary salary adjustments" in response to difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Pique suggested the wages being sacrificed now will be repaid in future, once the club is in a better financial state.

Another presidential candidate Pere Riera recently said he "wouldn't pull out all the stops" to keep Messi at Camp Nou, but that he believed the forward wished to stay.

Ronald Koeman has hit back at suggestions Lionel Messi is not working hard enough for Barcelona following criticism of his efforts against Dynamo Kiev.

Messi scored a penalty to help the Catalan giants to a 2-1 victory at Camp Nou on Wednesday, a result that left them three points clear at the top of Champions League Group G.

A clip of the Argentina star failing to press the Dynamo defenders in second-half injury time went viral after the match, though, as viewers called the forward's work rate into question.

Messi had more shots (six) and created more chances (four) than any other player in the match, but he also lost possession more frequently than anyone else (20 times) without once winning it back.

His form has been scrutinised ever since he failed to engineer a transfer away from Barca in August and September. Despite attempting more shots (28) than any other player in LaLiga, he has yet to score from open play in the competition in 2020-21 or provide an assist in his six appearances.

Koeman, however, says out-of-context footage is no way to judge a player's effectiveness and insists Messi remains an essential player.

"I didn't seem him [walking] and I'm not interested in this because I don't see him walking," the Barca head coach said on Friday. "If you want to start a controversy around this point, it's your problem.

"Messi is mentally good, enjoying this sport. He's a winner and sometimes you go through moments when the ball doesn't go in, but he looks really focused on that subject.

"I think Messi still has so many qualities. He's very important in our game.

"He scored the penalty and we're used to him making the difference here, and he's still a very decisive player.

"You said [the footage was from] the 93rd minute... there are pictures of anyone, of me when I'm sitting down, or annoyed. It seems we should be more aware of our image than our work. I don't agree with that. 

"I think these players, like those of my era, have the same effort as us. They work in training, they want to win and it annoys them when they don't win. If it were not like this, it'd be because my work isn't working."

Barca face Real Betis at Camp Nou on Saturday, looking to record just their third league win of the season.

Veteran winger Joaquin caused a stir this week when he claimed he would not even hire Koeman "as kit man" after a difficult spell working under him at Valencia.

Asked about those comments, Koeman said: "I understand it's a really interesting topic for you.

"If he speaks, it's his problem. I'm focused on the game and not individual things that happened many years ago."

Diego Maradona is recovering well from brain surgery and already feels in a position to be discharged from hospital, according to his personal doctor Leopoldo Luque.

The Argentina great underwent an operation for a subdural haematoma on Tuesday, a day after being admitted to hospital due to concerns over anemia and dehydration.

Luque has previously revealed the "routine" emergency procedure was successful and he has now provided a further update on the 60-year-old's condition.

"The recovery continues to go very well," he said outside the Olivos Clinic in Buenos Aires, where Maradona is staying. 

"He is very keen to leave. He feels like he is ready to be discharged. He can walk, he is speaking to me, he is much more lucid."

Maradona, who won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986 and guided Napoli to two Serie A titles, has been in charge of Superliga Argentina club Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata since 2019.

He appeared in a fragile state when he briefly made an appearance as his Gimnasia side played a match on his birthday last Friday.

Argentina and Barcelona star Lionel Messi offered his best wishes to Maradona in a social media message on Wednesday, posting: "Diego, all the strength in the world. 

"My family and I want to see you well as soon as possible. A hug from the heart!"

It has by no means been a vintage start to the season for Lionel Messi.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner failed to force through an exit from Barcelona at the end of 2019-20 and in his nine appearances in all competitions this term he is yet to register a goal from open play.

His solitary goal in LaLiga came from the penalty spot, as did his three in the Champions League as Ronald Koeman's side navigated meetings with Ferencvaros, Juventus and Dynamo Kiev to reach the midway point of the group stage with a 100 per cent record.

Messi may not be at his prolific best but the 2020-21 Champions League is on course to set a record for the most goals per game in the competition's history.

Still a key creator

All of Messi's three goals may have come from the spot, but he is still having an important impact.

The Argentinian has supplied two assists and is creating an average of 4.3 chances per 90 minutes – his previous high was 2.9 in 2011-12 and 2018-19, which were also the two campaigns in which he recorded his best minutes per goal numbers (70 and 71 respectively).

Indeed, only Borussia Monchengladbach striker Alassane Plea (6) has been involved in more Champions League goals this term than Messi, while Bayern Munich midfielder Joshua Kimmich (10) is the only other player to have hit double figures for chances created.

Although each of Messi's three big chances have been penalties, he has still attempted 5.7 shots per 90 minutes – not too far off his high of 6.9 in 2011-12.

He may not be being as clinical, but there is no doubt Messi is still proving hugely influential in Barca's attack.

Goals, goals, goals

Not everyone has been struggling for goals, though.

Through the opening 48 games of the competition there has been 156 goals, which works out at an average of 3.25 per match – which would represent a record in the modern era. The existing record of 3.24 goals per game was set last term and four of the past five seasons have seen the highest averages.

Of the goals in this year's competition, 22 have come from the penalty spot. That works out at almost one every other game (0.46). The most in a Champions League campaign was set last term at 0.31.

However, the red cards per game (0.15) is one of the lowest, with only five previous campaigns seen fewer on average. The lowest mark of 0.08 was registered in 1992-93.

Pressing high and playing

In European football, there's no doubt it's definitely in vogue to press high, play out from the back and keep possession. No one has quite mastered that like Pep Guardiola.

Manchester City and Real Madrid have recorded the joint-most high turnovers – defined as the number of sequences that start in open play and begin 40 metres or less from the opponent's goal – with 27, more than double the total managed by Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool (12), and have both seen eight of them end in a shot and two in a goal.

Atalanta have proved more efficient in making the goalkeeper work when regaining possession at most 40m from the opposition goal. However, despite six of their 15 high turnovers ending in a shot, none have resulted in a goal.

City have begun their open play sequences from an average of 49m from their own goal – further forward than any other team in the competition – and lead the way in open play sequences of at least 10 passes with 82. Only Madrid (61), Borussia Dortmund (64) and Barca (77) have had more than 60 such sequences.

Guardiola's side have also registered a competition-leading 22 build-up attacks, which are open play sequences of at least 10 passes that either end in a shot or include a touch in the opposition box.

Pass masters

It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that City centre-back Ruben Dias has the highest passing accuracy (96.2 per cent) of any player to have attempted at least 200 passes.

The fact the next most precise player in that category is Ferencvaros midfielder Ihor Kharatin, though, may raise some eyebrows.

Lionel Messi marked his 150th European appearance for Barcelona with a goal as Ronald Koeman's side saw off stubborn opponents Dynamo Kiev 2-1 in Wednesday's entertaining Champions League clash.

The superstar forward scored from the penalty spot for the third Group G game running and Gerard Pique added a second, but only after Barca had been given a number of scares.

Returning goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen produced a handful of top-class saves, the best of the lot to keep out Vitaliy Buyalskiy's free header in the first half, while Tomasz Kedziora had a goal ruled out.

Dynamo named a depleted squad due to a coronavirus outbreak in the camp and pushed their opponents all the way thanks to Viktor Tsygankov's strike 15 minutes from time, though Barca held on to make it nine points from nine.

Lionel Messi has sent "all the strength in the world" and a "hug from the heart" to Diego Maradona after the Argentina legend underwent brain surgery.

Maradona, who turned 60 last week, had what his personal doctor Leopoldo Luque described as a "routine" operation for a subdural haematoma on Tuesday.

Luque said the former Argentina captain, one of the all-time greats, is "under control" and had made a "great" start to his recovery.

Argentina and Barcelona skipper Messi offered his best wishes to Maradona in a social media post on Wednesday.

The 33-year-old forward posted on Instagram: "Diego, all the strength in the world. My family and I want to see you well as soon as possible. A hug from the heart!"

Maradona also played for Barcelona in his distinguished career, having a two-year spell at Camp Nou from 1982 to 1984.

He went to the Ipensa clinic in La Plata on Monday before being transferred to the Olivos clinic in Buenos Aires province.

The former Napoli talisman's lawyer revealed he only had tests that led to surgery after being admitted to hospital with depression.

"The last medical checks were excellent," lawyer Matias Morla said after visiting Maradona in hospital, according to Ole.

"Diego was very anxious [before the surgery] about what was going to happen and very satisfied with the work of Dr Luque, which was an impeccable operation.

"I want to highlight something very important: the same test that was carried out on Diego yesterday, which detected this bleeding, was also carried out in September, which shows the tireless work of Dr Luque on Diego.

"If it had not been detected by him, Maradona's fate would have been different. I want to make it very clear, mainly because of the criticism. Luque tested him in September.

"Diego had presented a picture of depression. That's why I'm with Carlos Diaz, who was the one who treated Diego before and who noticed a mental issue.

"In principle, [Diaz] linked it to the issue of his birthday, to a depression caused by the pandemic and the different circumstances around it. Later, upon seeing that this picture had developed, at the request of Luque and Diaz, he was hospitalised and that's where the test was made that resulted in the operation.

"I don't know the causes of the haematoma and I'm not a doctor. What I do know is he had strange behaviour, he was very depressed, he made comments referring to relatives who died, that he missed them. He always, on every birthday, suffers from a kind of nostalgia.

"He really misses his mother – this is always the same on the subject of birthdays – but this year it increased, so I'm here with the psychologist who intervened."

Matchday three of the Champions League is upon us as teams reach the halfway point of the 2020-21 group stage, and Wednesday's action sees plenty of the heavyweights hoping to take advantage of theoretically weaker opposition.

Juventus were beaten by Barcelona last time out in the competition, but this time Andrea Pirlo will be able to rely on the services of Cristiano Ronaldo, who will no doubt be licking his lips at the prospect of facing leaky Ferencvaros.

Similarly, Barca will be strong favourites as they face Dynamo Kiev, while Manchester United go to Istanbul Basaksehir and Chelsea host Rennes.

However, Paris Saint-Germain could find themselves in a particularly tricky situation if they lose at an RB Leipzig smarting from their crushing by United.

Here is some of the key data from Wednesday's matchday three match-ups.

Barcelona v Dynamo Kiev: Messi and Griezmann poles apart

Although Barcelona are perhaps no longer the force we expect them to be, there is no doubt they will be firm favourites here, with the Catalans unbeaten in their previous 22 group games, while they could win five first-phase matches in a row for the first time since October 2017.

Lionel Messi's form early on this season has led to some criticism, but few have the pedigree he has and he boasts 20 goals in his previous 24 Champions League appearances.

Contrast that with the much-maligned Antoine Griezmann, however. The Frenchman has just two goals in 10 Champions League games for Barca, one every 373 minutes – he netted once every 190 minutes on average for Atletico Madrid.

Ferencvaros v Juventus: Ronaldo licking his lips

Juve were without talismanic forward Ronaldo in their previous two group games against Dynamo and Barca, the latter of whom beat the Old Lady – therefore he will be hoping to make up for lost time against Ferencvaros, whose seven goals conceded is the worst in the competition.

In that game against Barca, Juve failed to muster a single shot on target – aside from the three goals Alvaro Morata had chalked off for offside.

A defeat for Juve in Hungary would be a huge shock, but if it does happen, it will be the first time the Bianconeri have lost successive group games since October 2014. Coach Pirlo played in the second loss back then.

Istanbul Basaksehir v Manchester United: Red Devils on course as Greenwood eyes history

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was asked in his pre-match news conference if United felt more confident travelling to Istanbul knowing they would not be facing a vociferous crowd – after all, the Red Devils have lost on each of their previous two trips to Turkey.

United have struggled domestically of late, losing most recently to Arsenal on Sunday, but Champions League wins over RB Leipzig and Paris Saint-Germain have them in fine shape in Europe – no team has ever failed to qualify after winning their first two group games, an omen they should not ignore here.

Marcus Rashford was the hero against Leipzig, but Mason Greenwood also netted to level his team-mate as the most prolific English teenager in UEFA competition with six goals. The 19-year-old will set a new record with another in Istanbul.

RB Leipzig v Paris Saint-Germain: Germans desperate to bounce back

Leipzig's 5-0 annihilation by United last time was their worst ever European defeat and the heaviest suffered by a German team since 2014 – Wednesday's match gives them the chance to bounce back against the team that beat them in the semi-finals last season.

PSG, of course, have plenty of attacking talents for Leipzig to contend with, though arguably chief among them will be Kylian Mbappe, who has been directly involved in 22 away goals in the competition (14 goals, eight assists), which is more than anyone else since his first trip back in February 2017.

But the omens are not all great for PSG. There has only been one previous instance in the Champions League where a German coach has won away to a side managed by another German tactician.

 

Other fixtures:

Chelsea v Rennes

15 - Chelsea have only suffered one defeat in their previous 15 home games in the group stage of the UEFA Champions League (0-1 v Valencia last season), winning nine and drawing the other five games in this run.

3 - Hakim Ziyech scored his first goal for Chelsea in the Champions League on MD2, while he could become just the third player to score on his first two starts for the club in the competition after Didier Drogba in 2004 and Daniel Sturridge in 2010.

Sevilla v Krasnodar

13 - Including qualifiers, Sevilla are unbeaten in their previous 13 home games across all European competitions (W11 D2), with their last such defeat coming in April 2018 against Bayern Munich (1-2 in a Champions League quarter-final).

1 - Only one Russian side has ever won away at Sevilla in European competition, with CSKA Moscow prevailing 2-1 in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League in 2009-10.

Zenit v Lazio

4 - Zenit are hoping to avoid losing four consecutive games in the European Cup/Champions League for the first time in their history.

1 - Lazio will be aiming for their first away win in the Champions League since September 2003 (2-0 v Besiktas), having failed to win on any of their previous six trips in the competition (D2 L4).

Club Brugge v Borussia Dortmund

12 - Only Robert Lewandowski (15) has scored more Champions League goals than Dortmund's Erling Haaland (12) since the start of last season, with the Norwegian striker converting 12 of his 17 shots on target in the competition so far.

1 - Brugge goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has only ended on the winning side in one of his 13 appearances in the Champions League, drawing six and losing six of his 12 games since winning on his debut in the competition for Liverpool in September 2014 (2-1 v Ludogorets).

Lionel Messi is again being linked with a move to Inter.

Messi, 33, sensationally requested to leave Barcelona during the close season, but ended up staying with the LaLiga giants.

However, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner is widely expected to leave Camp Nou when his contract expires at season's end.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI'S BEST OFFER IS FROM INTER

Messi does not want to renew at Barcelona and his best offer is from Inter, according to OK Diario.

The Argentina star has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, winning 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues among numerous other trophies.

Messi was linked to Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter during the close season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland continues to be one of the most wanted forwards in Europe. The Borussia Dortmund star almost joined Juventus in 2018 and the Serie A champions are again keeping an eye on him, according to CalcioMercato. Haaland has been linked with numerous European giants and has eight goals and three assists in nine games this season.

- Pedri, 17, has impressed since joining Barcelona from Las Palmas earlier this year. Goal reports the LaLiga giants have a huge €400million release clause on the midfielder.

- Ismael Bennacer is linked with a move from Milan. PSG and City are monitoring the midfielder, according to CalcioMercato.

- Inter's Christian Eriksen is tipped to join PSG as head coach Antonio Conte is unhappy with the Danish midfielder, claims Gazzetta dello Sport.

Dynamo Kiev head coach Mircea Lucescu does not believe Barcelona are at the level to win the Champions League.

Group G leaders and LaLiga giants Barcelona will host Ukrainian visitors Dynamo at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Barca equalled their worst tally of LaLiga points after six games since the Spanish competition reverted to three points for a win – Ronald Koeman's side drew 1-1 with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday, meaning they have just eight points so far in the early stages of the 2020-21 campaign.

That is the same total as Barca managed at the start of the 2002-03 campaign when another Dutchman, Louis van Gaal, was in charge. 

Barca were also humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in last season's Champions League quarter-final and, speaking on the eve of the match, Lucescu told reporters: "After the game against Bayern Munich it was understandable that Barcelona were looking to make changes.

"They have a squad with very talented players, but they need time to learn the mechanisms.

"I don't think Barcelona are at the level to win the Champions League at the moment. Bayern Munich, Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain have more options.

"In any case, they have a footballer in Lionel Messi, who can be very important. A new coach needs a minimum of six months and in spring they will be another team. Barcelona are a team that are better off playing the Champions League than LaLiga, because in the domestic competition the rest of the rivals know them very well."

Lucescu's Dynamo have one point from two games to be third in Group G, five points adrift of unbeaten leaders Barca.

Barca are undefeated in their previous 22 games in the group stage of the Champions League, while they could win five group outings in a row for the first time since October 2017.

Lionel Messi has scored 20 goals in his last 24 appearances for Barca in the Champions League, while he last netted in his first three games of a single campaign in the competition back in 2018-19.

Dynamo are winless in their past 14 games against Spanish opponents in European competition, with their last victory coming back in March 1999 in the European Cup quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi always shows his "ambition" and "winning character" and is not difficult to manage, according to Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman.

This week, former Barca coach Quique Setien described Argentina superstar Messi as the greatest player of all time but said: "There's another facet beyond just the player and it's more difficult to manage. Much more difficult. 

"It's something inherent in many athletes that can be seen in the Michael Jordan documentary ['The Last Dance']. You see things you don't expect."

Setien was dismissed in the wake of the humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in last season's Champions League quarter-finals, with Koeman replacing the deposed coach.

The Dutchman retained the services of Messi in his squad despite a very public and ugly transfer saga involving the Barca captain.

But Koeman insists he does not find it tricky managing a player considered by many as the best of all time.

"I respect all opinions. For me Leo is the best player in the world, I am seeing his ambition and winning character," he told a news conference ahead of Wednesday's Champions League clash with Dynamo Kiev at Camp Nou. 

"I have no difficulties to lead [him]. He is the captain and I talk to him every week. I see things differently from Setien and I do not agree [with his opinion]."

Despite being in the infancy of his tenure, there is already some pressure on Koeman – not least because of the resignation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Barca have also only taken two points from their past four LaLiga matches, a run that included a 3-1 reverse to Real Madrid in the Clasico and a 1-1 draw at Deportivo Alaves, who finished Saturday's encounter with 10 men.

In LaLiga this season, Barca have scored 10 goals, created 58 chances and 13 big chances in six games. Madrid, as a comparison, have 13, 81 and 25 across the metrics.

Koeman insists his side are trying to play in a positive way and does not pay too much attention to external noise about his long-term future.

"My future at Barcelona is not the most important thing. You have to live day by day and try to win the games," he added. 

"We ask for peace of mind and time because we are changing a lot of things. In LaLIga we have been good, but we have not gotten good results. In the rest I have no influence. I will do my best to stay a long time.

"We are the team that creates the most chances per game. The image we are showing is positive and we will continue on this path although we know that in LaLiga you have to win more games."

Barca's clash with Dynamo has been hit by several positive results for coronavirus returned by the visitors.

But Koeman warned his side against complacency if the match goes ahead, especially considering Shakhtar Donetsk had similar issues prior to beating Madrid in matchday one.

"We know that Dynamo has problems due to COVID. They have done a test this morning, we have to wait for the results this afternoon," he added. 

"I don't know the UEFA rules. We have to prepare for the game and hopefully we can play it.

"The COVID issue is not easy. At Dynamo there are many players and that influences their quality, but there were also casualties at Shakhtar and they won against Madrid. 

"You have to respect the opposition."

Barcelona presidential candidate Pere Riera said he "wouldn't pull out all the stops" for Lionel Messi to stay at Camp Nou.

Josep Maria Bartomeu quit as Barca president last week, ahead of a vote of no confidence against his leadership, along with the entire board of directors.

Following Bartomeu's decision to quit it has been reported Barcelona's presidential elections will be held in the second week of January, with Riera announcing his candidacy.

Messi's future remains an important topic at the embattled LaLiga giants after the six-time Ballon d'Or winner handed in a transfer request following a tumultuous 2019-20 season.

The Barca captain was tipped to join Premier League powerhouse Manchester City before opting to remain in Spain.

Asked about Messi, Riera told Radio Marca: "In my opinion, Messi has to stay at Barcelona and not with history. It's not good for anyone.

"In the end, it's Messi who decides [his future]. I very much doubt that Messi wanted to leave Barcelona [in the summer].

"I wouldn't pull out all the stops for Messi."

It has been a difficult start to the campaign for Messi, as he has now gone 877 minutes without scoring in open play. 

Messi's last open-play effort came against Napoli in the Champions League back in August, although he has scored three penalties and one free-kick since then.

Barca equalled their worst tally of LaLiga points after six games since the Spanish competition reverted to three points for a win.

Ronald Koeman's side drew 1-1 with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday, meaning they have just eight points so far in the early stages of the 2020-21 campaign.

That is the same total as Barca managed at the start of the 2002-03 campaign when another Dutchman, Louis van Gaal, was in charge. 

Lionel Messi will not be given special treatment by Barcelona as the LaLiga giants look to reduce their wage bill ahead of presidential elections that are set to take place around Christmas.

The Catalan club are desperate to reduce their expenditure by €300million in order to remain financially stable as they play behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Barca hope to agree wage deferrals with the first-team squad this week and the president of the club's managing commission Carles Tusquets made it clear that Messi, who is under contract at Camp Nou until June, will not be treated differently.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner expressed his desire to leave Barcelona in August but stayed put after former president Josep Maria Bartomeu refused to let him go for free.

"I think we can reach an agreement. It seems to me that there is a willingness to do so. We do not want to take money from anyone but to adjust salaries so we can pay them when possible – this is the solution we think is the most viable given the circumstances," said Tusquets.

“We cannot make a tailor-made deal just for [Messi]. We can create different structures for similar cases, but we cannot tailor-make deals for individuals.

"We intend to solve the issue with the whole staff and all the employees and we will do everything possible to ensure everybody is satisfied.

"Depending on the money available, we know that our income will fall by around €300million if we cannot open the stadium. Even if we can, it will not be fully open this season.

"I won't get into specifics about Messi because we have to finish negotiations first. What I can say is that there is a willingness from Messi and his representatives.

"There is no reason to hide the fact that Barcelona's wage bill is the highest in Europe but I like to look to the future and today I was with [technical director Ramon] Planes, [head coach Ronald] Koeman and [chief executive Oscar] Grau, and I congratulated them on the courage to bet on young players, not many have that much courage.

"We are top of the rankings in terms of salary expenditure, it is around 70 per cent of the total budget of the club and that is a lot, but we are working on it."

Tusquets is heading up a temporary board convened following the resignation of Bartomeu last week and he expects elections to choose a permanent predecessor to take place before the year is out.

"We set up a work group that will liaise with the health authorities to ensure the full safety of our members while also ensuring the highest possible turnout," he said.

"We will deploy all logistic and human resources to ensure it is well organised, always respecting the club statutes. We could promote postal voting too."

Barca are winless in four games in LaLiga but Tusquets made it clear they are not planning for significant reinforcements when the January transfer window opens.

He said: "I feel we should only make a move if a player can come at zero cost. Or if a player is sold in the transfer window, then we could buy.

"But all these decisions can be reversed by the next presidency. If the new board wants to go back on everything we decided, then they are free to do so."

Lionel Messi is "difficult to manage" at Camp Nou, according to former Barcelona head coach Quique Setien.

Setien was sacked by Barca following a tumultuous 2019-20 season which saw the club dethroned by bitter rivals Real Madrid in LaLiga and humiliated 8-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Former Real Betis boss Setien was replaced by Ronald Koeman at the end of the campaign, having only filled the void left by Ernesto Valverde in January.

Setien hailed Messi but reflected on a difficult period with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner in Barcelona.

"I think Messi is the best of all time," Setien told El Pais. "There have been other great players who have been great, but the continuity that this boy has had throughout the years has not been had by anyone.

"Leo is difficult to manage. Who am I to change him! If they have accepted him as he is for years and have not changed him.

"There's another facet beyond just the player and it's more difficult to manage. Much more difficult. It's something inherent in many athletes that can be seen in the Michael Jordan documentary ['The Last Dance']. You see things you don't expect.

"He's very reserved but he makes you see the things that he wants. He doesn't talk much."

Setien, who has announced legal action over the handling of his Barca dismissal, added: "After leaving what I am clear on is that at certain times should have made other decisions, but there's something above you: the club.

"And it is above the president, the player, the coach. It's the club and the fans. They are the ones to whom you owe the greatest respect, and you have to do what is most convenient for the club as a whole."

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman admitted he is worried about the stuttering club following their equal worst LaLiga start.

Barca equalled their worst tally of LaLiga points after six games since the Spanish competition reverted to three points for a win following Saturday's 1-1 draw at 10-man Deportivo Alaves.

Antoine Griezmann cancelled out Luis Rioja's opener with 27 minutes remaining to salvage a point for Barca, who have just eight points to already be as many points adrift of defending champions and bitter rivals Real Madrid.

Barca – who languish in 12th place amid a four-match winless streak in LaLiga – have the same total of points as they managed at the start of the 2002-03 campaign under Louis van Gaal.

"I'm worried by our performance in attack," Koeman – in his first season at the helm after replacing Quique Setien – said. "It's not an attitude problem, nor concentration, but it's a question of being more assured in front of goal.

"It happened to us against Juventus and today as well. Furthermore, we gifted Alaves their goal. But if we create that many chances, we can't miss so many. If you create chances and you only score one, it's not good.

"Of course I'm worried that we've only picked up two points from the last 12 [available]. I think the play has been, in general, very satisfactory. I'd be more worried if we weren't creating chances.

"We have to perform better in front of goal. The final pass, the final shot. We can't miss so many [chances]. We're missing too many."

Lionel Messi's struggles also continued – the superstar Barca captain has now gone 877 minutes without scoring in open play.

Messi's last open-play effort came against Napoli in the Champions League back in August, although he has scored three penalties and one free-kick since then.

Koeman made three changes at half-time, introducing Miralem Pjanic, Pedri and Trincao for Sergio Busquets, Clement Lenglet and Ousmane Dembele following Rioja's 31st-minute opener.

"I wasn't happy with the first half," said Koeman. "I made three changes because I wasn't happy and there were some players on a yellow card.

"If you criticised me the other day for making changes too late, today I made changes at half-time. I wasn't happy with our first half and there were people on the bench with the capability of scoring. I wanted to change things to win the game."

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.