Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has claimed Lionel Messi’s performance ‘could be better’ – but insisted the Argentine is happy and will rediscover his best form.
The 33-year-old announced his desire to leave the club during the summer after a very disappointing 2019/20 season, which ended with a humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League. But while he made his feelings clear, Messi later confirmed he would be staying at the Camp Nou for at least one more season.
Barcelona have had a slow start to the season / DeFodi Images/Getty Images
However, Messi has netted just once – a penalty in the opening weekend – so far this campaign, although he has also provided two assists. Speaking ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League clash with Ferencvaros on Tuesday, Koeman has admitted Messi is not at his best at the moment, but insisted he is happy at the club.
“Maybe, at this moment, Messi’s performance can be better,” Koeman said before Tuesday’s game, as quoted by ESPN.
“But he’s happy, he’s working hard and he wants to be captain. I don’t have a single complaint, he’s had some bad luck too. He hit the post. [during Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Getafe] And the second day that goes in.
Koeman has backed Messi to return to his glorious best / Socrates Images / Getty Images
“I have no doubts about his performance and we are going to see it. [at his best] In the coming games, I’m sure.”
Koeman further admitted that his side cannot be considered favourites, considering Barca’s shock exits in the Champions League in recent years. He continued: “I can’t explain what happened last season because I wasn’t here – different players and coaches were – but if we fail this season I’ll be able to tell you why.
“But seeing what’s happened in recent seasons, I can. [say] We are not favorites. We are one of those teams that can go far in the competition, but not the favourites.”
Barcelona hosts Real Madrid on Saturday / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
While Barcelona may not be overwhelming favorites to win the competition, Koeman claims he will be able to explain why the team failed if they suffer a shock defeat to exit the competition. Won’t sit well with supporters.
Koeman’s Barça side have had a slow start to the season and are currently ninth in La Liga with seven points from four games. Messi may not be playing at his astonishing best at the moment, but Koeman’s comments about both his form as well as the club’s ambitions are likely to please the six-time Ballon d’Or winner. There will be little to do.