Ronald Koeman is keen to bolster his options at Barcelona with some January additions, but he acknowledges the club's financial situation may make it too difficult.

Philippe Coutinho last week joined Ansu Fati, Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique on Barca's long-term injury list, while Carles Alena was allowed to leave for Getafe on loan until the end of the season.

Koeman has already expressed his desire to add a striker to his ranks, with the club having let Luis Suarez leave in the close season without signing a replacement, and they continue to be linked with Memphis Depay.

However, Barca's finances have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, so much so that they have delayed the biannual wage payment due to players in January.

Koeman consequently accepts it may not be possible for Barca to fulfil his wish to bring in new faces.

"It is important for our short-term future. We want to improve the squad. I still think some positions need more competition and effectiveness," said Koeman on Friday.

"But I understand the situation of the club. If it is not possible, it is not possible, and we will wait for the next window."

Koeman suggested Alena may not be the only young player to leave Camp Nou this month, though he revealed 17-year-old midfielder Ilaix Moriba could be in line for a first-team debut against Granada on Saturday.

"We have told the players that I think it is better for them to find a way out so they have minutes, predominantly [these suggestions have come from] Ramon Planes [club technical secretary] because I am more focused on the games," said the Dutchman.

"Once again it is the player's decision. I think that for some, without mentioning names, because of their youth it is best to seek the best as a player. A young man cannot go a year without playing. It's not good for improving as a young player.

"We know that with Alena's loan we are missing a player, and Ilaix was with us in pre-season. Sometimes he trains with the first team. It is a possibility he will be called up for tomorrow's game."

Barca will be without the suspended Clement Lenglet at Nuevo Los Carmenes and Koeman indicated Samuel Umtiti could make his first start of the season in his fellow Frenchman's stead.

"He has been out for a long time and has recovered from his injury. It's a long path for him to be as he was before," said Koeman.

"He has had some minutes and we have to make a decision. Without Lenglet, he and [Oscar] Mingueza can deliver. We will make a decision after training today."

Following their meeting with Granada, Barca will compete in the Supercopa de Espana and the Copa del Rey.

In the latter competition they were drawn against fellow Catalan side Cornella, who remarkably knocked out LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

"I am not surprised. There are surprises like this in all countries," Koeman said of Atleti's defeat.

"It can be a complicated game. They deserved to win against Atletico, who played with a strong team. If it's not your day, a lower team with motivation and dedication can make things complicated for you.

"It's a nice tie because we don't have to travel, but we have to adapt to the artificial pitch. There are other games that we have to have maximum attention on first, though."

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman believes Lionel Messi is slowly getting back to his best after a brace against Athletic Bilbao.

Messi scored twice, to go with Pedri's goal, at San Mames on Wednesday as Barca recorded a 3-2 victory.

The star has been involved in 10 goals in his past 10 games in all competitions, netting eight and assisting two.

And Koeman feels Messi, who has netted 12 times in 20 appearances this season, is improving.

"Since the first day that I arrived at the club I think Lionel Messi has given everything," he told a news conference.

"I haven’t been surprised by his quality because he's obviously been showing how good he is for years. It's possibly true that he's been less effective than normal which is why there could have been doubts but he's doing a lot better now, he feels comfortable at the moment and he feels up for the challenge.

"That's how I feel. But I think Messi is the one who can answer that best."

Pedri cancelled out Inaki Williams' opener before Messi's double, and Barca moved into third in LaLiga despite Iker Muniain's late goal.

Koeman also praised Ousmane Dembele, who along with Pedri and Antoine Griezmann had a game-high three key passes.

"I think everything starts with the player himself. If the player feels comfortable and feels physically fit he can play well," he said.

"I don't think there's ever been any question about his quality, at least in my opinion, but there have been doubts about his ability to stay fit. At the moment he seems fully fit and I have to think about the programme of games ahead and when we can give him a rest because he hasn't played regularly for quite some time.

"He has to learn how to manage his game time as well. But in terms of the football he can play we know what he can give to the team. He's very good going forward, he attacks with the ball and those are good qualities for us."

Barca, who are seven points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid and have played two more games, visit Granada on Saturday.

Ronald Koeman believes Barcelona demonstrated they are on the right track by overcoming an early setback to win 3-2 at Athletic Bilbao.

Inaki Williams raced clear to put the hosts, who had Marcelino in charge for the first time, in front inside three minutes of Wednesday's LaLiga clash.

However, Barca responded impressively, goals from Pedri and Lionel Messi putting them in front by the break before the latter increased their lead just after the hour mark.

Koeman had to endure a nervy finish after Iker Muniain's 90th-minute finish, but promised his squad will "fight until the last match" in LaLiga after moving up to third in the table.

"The final result is a bit short because we have been superior in many phases," Koeman said, having now recorded three away wins on the spin in LaLiga for the first time in his reign.

"They made it 1-0 and we did not have the defensive coordination, but then we controlled [the game].

"I am happy with the result and with how we have achieved it. We have deserved it. Winning because of our game and our opportunities.

"The teamwork has been phenomenal. We will fight until the last match. There is distance [to go], but we are on the right track." 

Messi will understandably dominate the agenda having scored twice, but Koeman was also quick to praise the performance of Pedri, who completed over 90 per cent of his attempted passes.

The teenage midfielder scored the equaliser, heading in Frenkie de Jong's cutback cross with goalkeeper Unai Simon out of position, while it was his backheeled pass that set up Messi to make it 2-1.

"Pedri is showing despite his youth that he is very mature," the Dutchman said in his post-match interview.

"Messi has always shown his desire but today also with goals. It is very important."

Messi's long-term future at Camp Nou may be unclear but his recent form has shown no lack of commitment to the cause; he has been involved in 10 goals in his last 10 games in all competitions.

Barca are next in action on Saturday, when they visit Granada.

Lionel Messi is the only player who can ensure Barcelona's value, according to presidential candidate Lluis Fernandez.

Messi wanted to leave Barca last year, due to frustration with the club's board and then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner ultimately elected to stay and see out his contract, which runs out at the end of the season, before Bartomeu and the entire Barca board resigned in October.

There has been talk that Messi may choose to remain at the club he has been at since 2001, having helped them to 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions Leagues.

However, Messi, who marked his 500th LaLiga appearance by teeing up Frenkie de Jong's winner against Huesca last time out, will not make a decision until towards the end of the season – something Barca coach Ronald Koeman insists is not a problem.

With the presidential elections coming up on January 24, each candidate is outlining their vision for the future of the club, and Fernandez has vowed to do all he can to keep Messi at Camp Nou, outlining the financial benefits of retaining the 33-year-old.

"We can't forget that Barcelona have a greater income because of Messi," he told Radio Marca. "Barcelona would have less value without Messi.

"He is the only player in the squad who, by his mere presence, ensures Barcelona have more value and more income.

"We need income, but we also need to manage the club's structure. There's a need to negotiate the debt.

"But, there's no danger of Barcelona being forced to become a limited company. The members can rest assured about that."

Fernandez also wants the club to return to its roots and promote more players from its famed La Masia academy.

Ansu Fati is the most recent prodigy off Barca's production line and, should he win the election, Fernandez will speak to Koeman about the importance of giving youth a chance.

"We agree that Ronald Koeman should be given a chance," Fernandez added. "We need to speak with him because there's a need to give opportunities to the players from the academy.

"No starter has come out of La Masia since 2011, when Sergi Roberto did so. So, there's a need to speak to Koeman about this and about giving opportunities.

"From next year, we need to promote young players, as we won't be able to sign as much and we'll need to reduce the wage bill."

Barcelona have given midfielder Carles Alena permission to leave the club this month, with the player expected to move on loan.

The 23-year-old La Masia product has struggled to establish himself under Ronald Koeman this season, with only one of his five appearances across LaLiga and the Champions League coming in the starting XI.

Alena spent the second half of last season on loan at Real Betis and Getafe have been linked with his services on a deal that will likely run until the end of the season.

"Alena has permission from the club to seek his exit," Koeman told a news conference ahead of Wednesday's trip to Athletic Bilbao.

"When everything is done, I will be able to give an opinion, but there are players who can decide to stay or not. He has decided to seek his exit."

Barca's preparations for their visit to San Mames were hit by two positive coronavirus cases among the club staff on Monday.

That forced pre-match training and media duties to be postponed until later on Tuesday, when Koeman's squad were confirmed to have a clean bill of health in terms of COVID-19.

"There are things in life that cannot be controlled," the former Netherlands boss said.

"We have followed the protocol by suspending the training this morning and repeating the PCR tests.

"We could only hope that there were no more positives. Thank goodness that everyone has come out negative and we were able to prepare for tomorrow's game. "

Barcelona head into the match in fifth, 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid having played a game more.

Despite a hectic fixture schedule this month, Koeman has not ruled out bringing in reinforcements to bolster an ailing title challenge.

"Any team looks at how the squad can be improved in January," he added.

"I make my plans on seeing the casualties we may have and what players [we need] to bring.

"But if it is not possible, I will have the same players."

Ronald Koeman said Barcelona were missing a number nine as they scored just once from 20 shots on goal in a 1-0 victory over Huesca, and called for the club to sign a new striker.

Lionel Messi returned to the Barcelona side after recovering from an ankle injury and Koeman opted to play him in attack alongside Martin Braithwaite and Ousmane Dembele.

The trio attempted 15 shots between them but it was Frenkie de Jong who scored the decisive goal, volleying Messi's chipped pass into the net after 27 minutes.

Koeman, who sent on Antoine Griezmann for Braithwaite nine minutes from time, admitted that he lacks a natural striker to lead the line in between the creative talents of Messi and Dembele.

"I trust each player in our squad," Koeman told reporters. "But if we choose to have three midfielders there is room for three forwards.

"With Leo we bet on someone with great depth like Dembele, and we have to choose between Martin or Antoine at the top and Martin has done it.

"It's a nine that we're missing in these games but it doesn't mean anything in regards to Antoine's substitution. We have a lot of games and we need all the players.

"We have said several times, at the beginning of the season, that we need someone at the top to have more competition and more goals, more effectiveness, but this depends on many things."

Koeman indicated that he believes improving his striking options will help reduce the pressure on Barcelona's defence, which absorbed waves of Huesca attacks as the hosts sought an equaliser late on at El Alcoraz.

Barcelona were on target with just seven of their 20 shots at goal and Koeman said they must close games out earlier to avoid nervous late spells.

"The second half was not so brilliant," admitted Koeman.

"In the end we suffer a little because they have tried to create and there have been crosses where we have defended well. If you don't close out the game earlier, you always suffer."

Looking ahead to LaLiga clashes with Athletic Bilbao and Granada, and a Supercopa de Espana semi-final against Real Sociedad, Koeman added: "This month is very important for our aspirations because we have many away games and if we win them I think we can fight.

"We have come out strong, very focused, and that is the main base we need. If we have those two things we will improve with the ball and if we can also improve in front of goal we can have a very important and good year."

Barcelona moved into LaLiga's top five after Frenkie de Jong's goal clinched a 1-0 victory over bottom club Huesca in Lionel Messi's 500th league appearance for the club.

Blaugrana boss Ronald Koeman, who warned before the game that defeat would all but end his side's title challenge, saw a much-improved Barcelona performance as he earned back-to-back LaLiga away wins for the first time in his tenure.

Messi came back into the side after missing Barca's disappointing 1-1 draw with Eibar due to an ankle injury and was at his talismanic best, deftly assisting De Jong's volleyed goal after just before the half-hour mark.

Huesca did open the visitors up on occasion and it remains to be seen whether Koeman can restore some consistency and style to this team, but they did enough here to climb above Sevilla in the table.

Barcelona's early pressure paid off after 27 minutes when Messi played an exquisite chipped pass into the box, where De Jong evaded two defenders and guided the ball into the corner of the net from six yards on the volley.

Messi would have capped a fine first-half performance with a superb goal five minutes from the interval had Alvaro Fernandez not pulled off a spectacular save, palming his dipping 20-yard free-kick over the crossbar.

The six-time Ballon d'Or winner flashed a fierce effort narrowly wide from the edge of the box early in the second period, before Marc-Andre ter Stegen got down well to prevent Rafa Mir's close-range shot from becoming the equaliser.

Ousmane Dembele should have put the game beyond doubt when he went one-on-one with Fernandez 13 minutes from time, but the Huesca goalkeeper saved at his feet and then denied Messi again before full-time.

Ronald Koeman is happy for Lionel Messi to decide on his Barcelona future at the end of the season.

Messi asked to leave Barca in 2020 but ultimately stayed put, although he has made little effort to hide his displeasure with former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The 33-year-old's contract runs out at the end of the season, and he is set to become the most highly sought-after free agent in history.

While Messi, who did not feature in a 1-1 draw with Eibar on Tuesday, is reportedly yet to fully decide on whether he will leave the club, head coach Koeman is not looking to hurry his captain.

"Leo is fine. He was training on [December] 30 and 31, while the rest of the squad was resting," Koeman said ahead of Barca's clash with Huesca.

"No doubt for him, he's got great fitness and he's prepared, happy and really excited. That's important for us.

"He has said that he no longer wants to make the decision [now] and it must be respected. You are free to report however you want. 

"He always does the best for the team, I see no problem that he doesn't decide now."

Barca's presidential elections are set to take place later this month, with several candidates offering up their plans for how to turn things around for the Catalan giants.

The camp of Emili Rousaud, one candidate, spoke of a potential move for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland, although speculation was swiftly stymied by agent Mino Raiola.

Koeman would like to be able to add to his squad in January but accepts that financial restraints may limit his options, while he does not expect any business to happen prior to the presidential elections on January 24.

"Yes. Without saying names, yes," Koeman replied when asked if he wanted new signings.

"There are players who find it difficult to play games and we want to strengthen the squad. Some don't have much of a future.

"I have already said that it depends on the new president and there will not be much time. We can be prepared. I cannot change the date of the elections."

Ronald Koeman expects to be without Philippe Coutinho for at least three months following surgery to repair a knee injury.

Coutinho suffered damage to the external meniscus of his left knee after coming on as a second-half substitute in Barcelona's 1-1 draw with Eibar on Tuesday at Camp Nou. 

The Brazil international was told he required an operation following further assessment and, while the club has yet to offer a timetable for his return, Koeman has confirmed it will be a lengthy absence. 

Speaking ahead of Saturday's LaLiga fixture away to Huesca, the Barca boss admitted it is a blow to lose another forward option, considering he is also without the services of Ansu Fati. 

"It's unlucky because we have so many important players out injured and Philippe will be about three months out," Koeman told the media.  

"He always has been an important player and he will be important, but now he has to recover, and I don't know when he will be 100 per cent fit.  

"An important absence. Up front, we are having some problems, of course, and I will have to see how we can solve Philippe's absence." 

Coutinho's injury will increase speculation over Barca making a move for long-time target Memphis Depay in the January transfer window. 

The Netherlands international is in the final year of his contract at Lyon and media reports in both France and Spain have suggested he could be available at a greatly reduced price, considering he can leave for free at the end of the 2020-21 season.

In the short term, Koeman will at least have Lionel Messi back for the game with Huesca, as Barcelona aim to avoid losing three successive games against newly promoted sides in the top flight for the first time in their history.

The Blaugrana were beaten by Osasuna in July towards the end of the previous season, then humbled by top-flight new boys Cadiz last month.

Getafe are poised to move for Barcelona midfielder Carles Alena and Real Madrid winger Takefusa Kubo when LaLiga's January transfer window opens.

Alena, 22, has been unable to establish himself as a regular starter under Ronald Koeman and has made just four appearances for the Blaugrana this season.

Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane allowed 19-year-old Kubo to join Villarreal on a season-long loan, during which he has made 19 appearances, but it is expected that deal will be cut short.

Getafe president Angel Torres revealed the club's interest in the pair as head coach Jose Bordalas seeks to strengthen his squad next month.

"Kubo wants to come," Torres told Onda Cero program El Transistor. "Yes, the other reinforcement may be Alena. But we are not going to go crazy."

Getafe currently occupy 13th place in LaLiga ahead of their fixture with leaders Atletico Madrid on Wednesday.

Lionel Messi watched from the sidelines as Barcelona dropped more points against lowly Eibar in LaLiga and Junior Firpo blamed the team's lack of cutting edge.

Barca have fallen seven points off the pace set by rivals Atletico Madrid and defending champions Real Madrid atop LaLiga, following Tuesday's 1-1 draw.

Ronald Koeman's Barca were held to back-to-back draws at Camp Nou after Eibar striker Kike capitalised on Ronald Araujo's error before substitute Ousmane Dembele scored an equaliser for the hosts.

With superstar captain Messi absent due to an ankle injury, Martin Braithwaite missed a penalty as Barca fired in 16 shots, including five on target, against the LaLiga strugglers.

Goalscorer Dembele was guilty of hitting a tame shot when clean through on goal, while Braithwaite and substitute Francisco Trincao spurned chances to net a late winner.

Antoine Griezmann was the only player in Barca's starting line-up with more than two league goals in 2020-21 but the recalled forward was unable to add to his three goals from 14 outings. 

"We need a thousand chances to score," Barca defender Junior said via Marca.

"They [Eibar] had one clear chance and scored."

Junior added: "It's the trend of the season.

"The games are tough and it's all uphill."

However, the 24-year-old left-back Junior was more than happy with his own performance after combining with Pedri to set up Dembele for Barca's 67th-minute leveller.

Junior made his first league start of the season against Eibar in relief of veteran full-back Jordi Alba.

"I felt good," Firpo said. "It's noticeable when you don't play so often, but I always try to train to the fullest.

"When I get a chance I try to take advantage of it."

Barcelona travel to face bottom side Huesca in their first match of 2021 on January 3.

Ronald Koeman concedes it will be "very difficult" for his Barcelona side to challenge Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid for the LaLiga title this season. 

Barca were held to a 1-1 draw by struggling Eibar at Camp Nou on Tuesday, Ousmane Dembele salvaging a point for the hosts after Kike Garcia had put Jose Luis Mendilibar's side ahead. 

Martin Braithwaite had earlier missed a penalty for Barca – his fourth consecutive failure from the spot – as Koeman's men dropped points for the eighth time in 15 LaLiga games this season. 

The result left them seven points behind the Madrid clubs despite having played two games more than leaders Atleti, and Koeman acknowledged a title tilt is now unlikely. 

"You have to be realistic and admit that it will be very complicated," he said. 

"In life nothing is impossible, but now there is a big difference in points with the leader, Atletico, who are doing very well, winning almost all their games and conceding very few goals. It's going to be very difficult."

Barca were without talisman Lionel Messi, who had been given extra time to recover from an ankle injury. 

Since his debut in October 2004, the Catalan giants have won just 55.9 per cent of their LaLiga games without him (W66 D39 L22), compared to 73.7 per cent with him in the side (W368 D83 L48).

While admitting they missed the Argentine superstar's creativity and goal threat, Koeman believed his side created enough chances to claim all three points. 

"In the first half we had problems getting the ball from behind," he added. "We did not look for a game between the lines and I do not know why, but we have had opportunities again.

"I don't want to say that we lacked experienced players. There is a transition in the team, there are injuries and we play with many young people.

"But today there was a lot of experience in the team and, yes, we were missing Leo who makes a difference. But the feeling we have is that it was possible to have won because we have created enough chances."

Barca are next in action against bottom side Huesca on Sunday. 

Ronald Koeman claimed it will make no difference to Lionel Messi's Barcelona future if Mauricio Pochettino takes over at Paris Saint-Germain.

Messi has been linked with a move away from Camp Nou ever since he expressed a desire to leave the club in August 2020, only to decide to stay until at least the end of this season when his contract expires, having been unable to force a transfer.

In a recent interview with Spanish television channel La Sexta the Argentina forward said he "did not know" what he was going to do but suggested he would like to play in the United States at some point.

With former Tottenham boss and compatriot Pochettino heavily tipped to become the new coach at PSG it has been suggested Messi and the Ligue 1 club could be a good fit, particularly with Neymar keen to reunite with his old team-mate.

But Barcelona head coach Koeman does not think there is an automatic correlation between the two.

"I do not know if it is true about Pochettino to PSG," Koeman told a media conference on Monday. "If Messi decides his future, it will not depend on a coach.

"I did not see the [Messi] interview live, but I have seen it. I have always been calm with Messi and I will not be calmer because he said that he will decide at the end of the season.

"We'll see what can happen. I appreciate Messi's words because he is a very important player for the club and for football. 

"Anyone likes to speak well of oneself. I'm still the same. I try to move the team forward, it is a year of transition and Messi is key to this process."

Barca are enduring a difficult season in LaLiga and are in fifth spot, eight points behind leaders Atletico Madrid.

Messi will miss his side's LaLiga clash with Eibar on Tuesday while he completes treatment on an ankle injury but Koeman expects him to return from a Christmas break as planned before they face Huesca on January 3.

"Leo had ankle discomfort, that's why we have given him two more days of vacation," Koeman explained. "The doctor has said that after a week without training he will be fine.

"Not having a Messi is big loss due to his quality and effectiveness. We lose a great player."

The Blaugrana are boosted by the return of Ousmane Dembele following the French forward's troubles with a hamstring injury, as Koeman defended his decision to give players more rest time over the festive period.

Koeman added: "Dembele is fine, he has been training with the team for days. In principle he will be called up [to the squad].

"We have three training sessions before Eibar. Sometimes a break is a training session for a player. In such a tight schedule you have to let the players rest. It is no problem that they have four days off."

Lionel Messi has been encouraged by Ronald Koeman's impact since becoming Barcelona coach but feels the club is so financially crippled that "it will be difficult to get back where it was".

Messi was speaking to La Sexta in one of his first interviews since telling the club of his desire to leave in August. 

Barca stood firm back then, refusing to allow him to depart despite Messi insisting the get-out clause in his contract was still valid – the Argentinian ultimately opted against pursuing the matter any further. 

Although he stayed put, Messi's future and mindset have been constant sources of debate in the four months since. 

The highly publicised interview, which aired in full on Sunday, saw Messi vow not to decide on his future until the end of the season despite being able to discuss a free transfer with another club in less than a week. 

And while there are plenty of fans unimpressed by Koeman's start with the club - they sit fifth after 14 games - Messi was complimentary about the Dutchman. 

"I think that with Ronald Koeman, he has projected a seriousness and an idea of what he wants for his team and what he wants for the club," Messi said. 

"I think that it was a great success and that he is doing things very well. At the beginning it was difficult because there were a lot of new people, a lot of young players, but little by little the team is growing." 

One aspect that some believe could count in Barca's favour with respect to Messi's future is the fact a new president will be in place by the end of January, with Joan Laporta the favourite to succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu and take charge for a second time. 

But Messi certainly does not envy anyone stepping into such a position, given the state of Barca financially, and suggested fans should not get their hopes up about the prospect of Neymar returning. 

"For this [the club's finances] it is a difficult time for the club, as it is everyone," he continued. "But from what we know, the club is really bad [financially] – very bad. It will be difficult to get back where it was.

"It won't be easy for the new president because they will find a very difficult situation at the club. It won't be easy to turn it around. 

"I hope whoever wins [the election] does things well to put this great club where it deserves to be - and where it isn't at the moment. 

"It will also be difficult to bring players because we need money and there is no money. There are several important players [required] to fight again for everything, and those players you have to pay them big money. 

"I was laughing because you said Neymar must be very expensive. And how do you pay PSG for that transfer?" 

Messi then also hit out once again at Barca's "crazy" decision to let Luis Suarez leave to Atletico Madrid, whom he has helped to the top of LaLiga. 

"I had already decided [I wanted to leave] before that," Messi mused.

"But it did seem crazy to me what they did with Luis, speaking in the specific case of Luis, because of how things were done, because of how he left, and because he left for free, paying him for the remaining years of his contract and giving him to a team that was going to fight for the same titles as us."

Ronald Koeman admits Barcelona cannot "settle for anything less" than first place in LaLiga and insisted Lionel Messi is up for the challenge.

A sloppy start to the campaign has left Barcelona with a great deal of ground to make up on the likes of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid over the coming months, after losing four of their opening 14 league games.

However, by taking 10 points from a possible 12 over the course of their last four games, there is a hint of a meaningful revival from Koeman's team.

Even with the season disrupted by the pandemic, and with the distraction of club elections only likely to grow across the next month, Koeman knows there will be no viable excuse for failure.

"At a club like Barca you have to win things. I think our ultimate purpose is to win games and trophies. You get no prizes for finishing fourth, you need to be first," Koeman said.

"That’s the mentality that this team must have, we can't settle for anything less. We know that this is a season with a lot of changes, the club are in a difficult financial situation, with issues regarding the players' salaries.

"This is a very delicate situation for football clubs because of COVID. But Barcelona are still a team that need to win, with the awareness that changes need to be made, but still aspiring to the highest level and making the biggest demands."

They sit fifth for now, after a 3-0 win at Real Valladolid on Tuesday, where Messi added the finishing touch with his 644th goal for Barcelona – breaking the single-club goals record held by Pele for almost half a century after his feats with Santos.

Messi's commitment has been questioned in some quarters this season after his attempt to force an exit from the club before the campaign got under way.

But Koeman says the 33-year-old Argentinian is determined to be instrumental rather than peripheral.

"He trains hard every day. He's very engaged," Koeman told Barcelona's official website.

Koeman said Barcelona, like all teams, need "a certain amount of peace of mind in order to win things", and that may come after the elections to decide a new club president on January 24.

The Dutch coach, once a goal-scoring defender for Barcelona, was persuaded to leave the Netherlands national team job to take up his current Camp Nou role.

He accepted the offer because the Euro 2020 finals were postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 crisis, and the chance came in the wake of a health scare.

Koeman was admitted to hospital with chest pain in early May and now says that was a "small stroke".

Speaking about that worrying time, he said: "It does make you think about things differently. Perhaps managing Barca became a case of 'now or never'."

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