Former Barcelona coach Quique Setien said he found dealing with Lionel Messi was difficult to manage, yet Ronald Koeman disagrees from his statement and actually has a good relationship with the forward.
“I respect everyone’s option but, for me, Leo is the best player in the world,” Koeman told in a news conference ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League game against Dynamo Kiev.
“I see the ambition he has and his winning character every day. He’s not a player I have difficulties with. He’s the captain and I speak with him every week about things on the pitch and things in the dressing room to [maintain] a good relationship with him.
“I see things differently and I am not in agreement with Setien, although I respect his opinion. If that’s what he says, that’s how it is for him.”
Messi has scored three goals in eight games so far this season but all came from the penalty spot. He is without a goal in La Liga in five matches.
Messi and Barca’s profligacy in front of goal has seen them pick up just two points from their last four games and Koeman said he accepts the criticism that comes with that even if he feels performances have been positive.
However, he also urged the club to sign a new striker in January and sources have told ESPN that Barca have stepped up their interest in Benfica’s Darwin Nunez.
“I have said various times that we need a No. 9 but it depends on the club’s financial position in January,” Koeman said.
“We have to wait. I don’t want to force it because I came here knowing the financial situation. If it’s not possible, it’s not possible, we will keep working with what we have got.”
While Barcelona on its worst start to a La Liga season since 2002-03 puts them in the bottom half of the table, things are starting to look better in the Champions League for the club so far.
Following back-to-back wins against Ferencvaros and Juventus, they’ll be welcoming Dynamo Kiev team to Camp Nou on Wednesday who will be without nine players who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We saw with Shakhtar [Donetsk] beating Real Madrid that the level doesn’t necessarily drop,” Koeman said.
“Shakhtar had a lot of players out with coronavirus and they won the game so we should not expect Kiev’s level to drop too much. We have to respect them and we will have to play well to win the game.”
Barca could welcome back Marc-Andre ter Stegen against Kiev. The goalkeeper has not played yet this season but is currently back in training and could be in the squad which will be announced on Wednesday.