Madrid (AFP) – Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has said he has no concerns about Lionel Messi ahead of their first La Liga game of the season on Sunday, after the Argentinian took another swipe at the club over the departure of Luis Suarez.
Koeman was also keen to point out it was not solely his decision to let Suarez join Atletico Madrid, with the Dutchman insisting he is not the “bad guy in the movie”.
Messi criticised how Suarez was pushed out as Barca try to reduce their wage bill, saying “you deserved a goodbye for what you are” before adding: “But at this point nothing surprises me anymore”.
Barcelona play Villarreal on Sunday at Camp Nou and Messi is expected to start, having reintegrated with the squad since claiming he was denied a transfer this summer.
Koeman said in a press conference on Saturday he was not worried about Messi, despite his captain’s latest show of frustration.
“It is normal for a player to be a bit sad when a friend of theirs leaves after the years that they have had together, it is part of football,” said Koeman.
“But the most important thing for me is how he has been. In training and in games, I think Leo has been an example for everyone, in his commitment to the club and to the team. I have no doubts about Leo in this regard.”
Suarez scored 198 goals for Barcelona to become their third highest goalscorer in history but the 33-year-old was deemed expendable after the team’s disastrous end to last season.
Koeman was reported to have held a direct and short telephone conversation with Suarez about his future but Barca’s new coach claims the decision was not only his.
“At first it was like I was the bad guy in the movie,” said Koeman. “It’s not like that because from the first day or after my call with Luis I showed respect for the player and the person he is.
“He trained to the maximum from the first day and I always told him it could be difficult for him to play but if he stayed he would be one of the squad and could work like the others.
“That’s what I told the club too but these are decisions made by the club. Before signing the contract the club was thinking about changing things and I have tried to support those decisions.
“But it was not only my decision as a manager, they are decisions of the club as well.”
Suarez follows Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo and Arturo Vidal in leaving Barcelona this summer but the club have struggled to afford replacements.
“The economic situation of the club is very complicated and it could be that they can’t bring in what I want,” said Koeman. “I knew that and I accept it and if I stay with these players, I will work very hard to improve them.”
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