European football

Messi departure painful but Barcelona can’t live in past, says coach

Messi departure painful but Barcelona can’t live in past, says coach

PARISIAN WELCOME. Paris St Germain's Lionel Messi acknowledges the fans inside the stadium before the match.

Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters

‘We won't have him around any more, but we still have a very strong squad,’ says coach Ronald Koeman as Barcelona starts life minus Messi

Lionel Messi is now in Barcelona’s past and the club must live in the present, coach Ronald Koeman said on Saturday, August 14, as his side prepare for a new LaLiga season without their greatest ever player – and battling through a financial crisis.

Barca are still reeling from the departure of their all-time top scorer to Paris St Germain after being unable to afford to give the Argentine a new contract.

But Koeman said it was time to look to the future with Sunday’s game at home to Real Sociedad coming up fast.

“It’s painful for all Barcelona fans given what Messi has done for the club, but we cannot live in the past,” Koeman told a news conference. “I’m excited for the new season, and I hope the fans are enthusiastic too. We have to live in the present and not the past.

“People have spoken a lot about Messi and that’s normal because of how effective he was and his quality. We won’t have him around any more, but we still have a very strong squad. There’s no excuses now, we’ve got games to play and points to win.”

Barca did have some good news as they were able to register new signings Eric Garcia and Memphis Depay after Gerard Pique agreed to take a salary cut to help bring the club in line with the league’s financial fair play rules.

The club said in a statement Pique had agreed to take a “significant” pay cut, adding they were in talks with the other club captain Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto over a squad-wide reduction to help ease the club’s financial woes.

“We all know the club’s situation and that it needs help so you have to appreciate the attitude of Gerard, of Sergi Roberto and Busquets,” added Koeman.

“It proves they are real club men.”

The Dutch coach added that Pedri and Eric Garcia would be available to face Sociedad despite playing the Olympic final for Spain last week after a grueling Euro 2020 campaign with the national team.

But he is missing some important players with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen recovering from knee surgery, forward Ousmane Dembele out with a muscle problem and new signing Sergio Aguero expected to be out until October. 

Messi watches PSG win

In Paris, Messi watched on from the stands as Paris St Germain made hard work of beating Strasbourg 4-2 in Ligue 1 on Saturday to continue their winning start to the new season.

Not yet fully fit, Messi, along with Neymar and fellow new recruits Gianluigi Donnarumma and Sergio Ramos, did not make the match squad, but saw his new club take an early lead through Mauro Icardi at Parc des Princes.

Kylian Mbappe then doubled PSG’s advantage in the 25th minute after his shot was deflected home, before the France international’s cross was turned in by Julian Draxler two minutes later to put the hosts 3-0 up.

However, second-half goals from Kevin Gameiro and Ludovic Ajorque got the visitors back into the contest, with PSG looking uneasy in possession.

Alexander Djiku’s dismissal for two bookable offenses let PSG off the hook nine minutes from time, with substitute Pablo Sarabia tapping home at the back post in the 86th minute to make sure of the unconvincing victory for Mauricio Pochettino’s side.

The win sent PSG top of the table with two wins from two, while last season’s champions Lille were surprisingly thrashed 4-0 at home by Nice earlier on Saturday. – 

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