Lionel Messi remains the world’s best footballer, and when he’s in the side, he makes Barcelona a stronger squad, says head coach Ronald Koeman.
In Saturday’s 5-2 victory over Real Betis at Camp Nou, the Argentina international was named among the substitutes for a La Liga game for the first time since September 2019.
In six league matches this term before last weekend’s competition, he had failed to score or assist from open play, but Koeman denied that he was dropped and put his absence down to a knock from the side.
By powering home as a halftime substitute against Betis, Messi ended his open-play drought, having earlier scored his fifth campaign penalty in all competitions.
Koeman has reaffirmed that he has complete confidence in the player, who at the end of last season struggled to step away from the club.
While he has had his problems with the club, Messi has shown me to be a guy who wants to win stuff and continue to be the best, “Koeman told Sport.”
With Messi, Barcelona has been, are, and will be a better team than without. They told me when I arrived that Messi was unhappy.
“At his home, we talked and he explained to me his motives. I was honest. I told him that the only thing was the system, its place in the field, its importance in the team. Still, I couldn’t change the issues that he had with the club. I have been saying the same thing since the first day. He is the best and the club is dedicated. He’s had his issues, his problems this summer, but he’s been really good since he got back to school. In some games, he has had bad luck and he has not been able to deliver the normal results, but I am sure he would have scored the usual goals at the end of the season.”
Ahead of the 2020-21 season, Koeman replaced Quique Setien and oversaw Barca’s joint-worst start to a La Liga campaign after six games in the age of three-points-per-win.