Forced to handle yet another difficult situation regarding Lionel Messi, Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman demanded more “respect” for his disgruntled star.
Koeman said he understood why Messi was visibly angry when journalists asked him about the criticism directed at him by a former agent of team-mate Antoine Griezmann when Messi arrived in Spain on Wednesday after a long flight.
“I need to defend Leo because if something happened to me after a trip of 15 hours in a plane back to Barcelona — you go outside and there is a lot of press asking that type of question — I would be dangerous and hate them as well,” Koeman said on Friday.
“We have to respect people like Messi more. And from what I have seen on the field and in training, there is no problem between [Messi and Griezmann].”
‘Regime of terror’
Eric Olhats, Griezmann’s agent until 2016, told France Football magazine last week that Messi has marginalised Griezmann in his “regime of terror” at the club where the Argentine supposedly “controls everything.”
When journalists asked Messi for his response, he wearily answered: “To be honest, I’m a bit tired of always being the problem for everything in this club.”
That set off another round of alarm bells at the Camp Nou about Messi’s future.
Many are concerned that the latest unpleasant episode is yet another reason for Messi to go through with his plan to leave the club. With his contract expiring at the end of this season, Messi will be free to negotiate with other clubs in January.
There is widespread speculation he could be tempted to reunite with former coach Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
‘Hope he will stay’
Koeman said that while he does not feel it is his job to convince Messi to stay, he is confident the 33-year-old forward will prolong his 20-year stint at Barcelona.
ALSO READ | Mourinho says everything is now deja vu
“I hope he will stay in Barcelona,” Koeman said. “I think it is unbelievable what he has done for this club, but he is the main person to make a decision about his future.”
Barcelona will visit Atletico Madrid, the league’s only unbeaten team, on Saturday.
Guardiola hopes Messi ends career at Barcelona
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said he is unsure what the future holds for Lionel Messi but hopes as a Barcelona fan that the Argentine forward will remain at the La Liga club until the end of his career.
Guardiola, who has guided City to two Premier League titles, three League Cups and the FA Cup following his arrival in 2016, signed a new two-year deal on Thursday that will keep him in charge until the end of the 2022-23 season.
The former Barca manager’s extension at City has opened up the possibility of a reunion with Messi in England, with the player in the last year of his current contract in Spain having unsuccessfully tried to leave the club in the close season.
“Messi’s a player for Barcelona. If you ask me my opinion I have huge gratitude for what Barcelona have done for me. I want him to finish his career there,” Guardiola told reporters ahead of Saturday’s Premier League trip to Tottenham Hotspur.
“I’d love, wish, I’ve said a thousand times. I’d like as a Barcelona fan for him to finish his career there. I don’t know what is in his mind, for now he’s a Barcelona player. The transfer market is in June. This is only half in our minds.”
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said his players could not revel in their 5-0 victor…