Messi made players seem better than they are - Koeman

Martin Macdonald
Lionel Messi celebrates scoring a spectacular goal for Barcelona against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final first leg in 2019 against Liverpool at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman believes the departure of Lionel Messi has had a detrimental impact on the performances of players at the club.

For the first time in his career, Messi is no longer a Barcelona player after completing a sensational free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer.

Messi's contract at Barca ended at the end of June and although he had agreed terms on a return, the club were at that time unable to register him again as a new player due to new La Liga regulations on wages.

The Blaugrana would subsequently announce that Messi would not be returning, which allowed PSG to swoop.

In their first season without Messi, the Barca players have struggled, winning two and drawing two of their opening four league matches.

In the Champions League, they were easily humbled 3-0 at home by Bayern Munich.

The financial instability of the club as a whole has ultimately ravaged the squad, with the likes of Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Miralem Pjanic being moved on.

No big money replacements can be signed currently, either.

For the players that have been there in recent years, Koeman believes the performances of Messi masked their true talents, or lack of them.

What did Koeman say?

"Lionel Messi has obscured everything. He was so good and he won," the Dutchman told Voetbal International.

"Of course he had good players around him, but he made the difference. Everyone seems better than they are because of him. This is not a criticism, but an observation.

"I knew how good he is, but it's still nice to see it up close every day. Everything you would like to teach a football player, in recognising situations, in taking the ball under pressure, in ball speed, in finishing; with Messi everything is a 10. Not normal, not normal!

Ronald Koeman Lionel Messi Barcelona 2020-21

"When we did a finishing practice during training, there were sometimes players who started to hit easy balls, a bit of fooling around. But with Messi everything was: boom, boom, boom, boom. Never frills, everything functional. And always wanted to win everything.

"We always play a rondo before training. If the ball goes around 20 times, then the players in the middle must have an extra turn. If that happens three times in a row, the players will form two lines and the two who were in the middle then walk through and get taps on their heads and such.

"I asked Messi if it had happened to him once. ‘Yes, once,’ he said. In all those years. With him, the older players never lost an exercise against the young. It happened once and Messi was seriously angry about that for a week.

"Really, a tyrant."