Koeman's La Masia praise as Barca start pre-season without Messi:

Martin Macdonald
Koeman wants Barcelona changes: Our only signing was Dest!

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman has praised the performance of his young La Masia stars following the Blaugrana's opening match of pre-season, a 4-0 victory against Gimnastic.

At the moment there are still plenty of internationals who are on holiday following Euro 2020 and the Copa America, meaning that Koeman is having to rely on a number of young stars currently before the senior players return.

Against Gimnastic, he fielded the following line-up:

Neto; Dest, Pique, Umtiti, Martinez; Roberto, Pjanic, Puig; Demir, Escobar, Jimenez

While there was plenty of experience on show, the likes of Jordi Escobar Fernandez, Alex Balde and started the match Carlos Javier Polo Jiménez or 'Peque'.

Off the bench came Arnau Comas, Santiago Ramos Mingo, Hiroki Abe, Gavi, Matheus Pereira, Moussa Ndiaye, Nils Mortimer, Rey Manaj, Igor Gomes, Alex Collado and Inaki Pena.

Manaj came off the bench to score a hat-trick.

Although not naming specific names, Koeman was happy with how his youngsters carried themselves.

“It is important that they have played all 45 minutes," the Dutchman said after the win.

"There have been two different parts, with Nastic playing with ten. It's a good result and there are very positive things.

“Everyone has come back well and we have trained hard. It is our first game and we have to catch the fitness.

"Everyone has been able to highlight their quality, especially the young players, although I will not give names.

"It was a good game and I have to admit that it was a bit strange to see the fans in the stadium, luckily things are beginning to return to normal."

What is Messi's situation?

What player that Barcelona are obviously desperate to see return is Lionel Messi, who at the moment is officially not a player of the Catalan side.

Messi's contract expired on 30 June and he has been available to talk to other clubs about a free transfer since the start of January.

Even though it was reported last week that the Argentine will indeed return to Barcelona to sign a new five-year deal, there has been no official announcement yet.

Barca are currently in a terrible state financially and must significantly cut their salary budget in order to meet new La Liga regulations.

Lionel Messi is fresh off a Copa America win

Lionel Messi is fresh off a Copa America win

They are currently unable to register any new players, or indeed bring Messi back, until this happens.

That has led to players being touted for moves away, high earners in particular like Antoine Griezmann and Miralem Pjanic to name a couple.

Messi has agreed to take a 50% wage cut in order to complete his return, but he will make back the rest of the salary due to the length of the contract which will take him to the age of 39.

He will continue to be paid by Barcelona even if he retires or moves clubs.