Ronald Koeman details showdown talks with Lionel Messi about leaving Barcelona
Ronald Koeman has opened up on his crunch talks with Lionel Messi after his appointment as Barcelona manager in August.
Koeman took over in the Camp Nou hot seat to find the club in turmoil after Messi announced his desire to leave after 19 years in Catalonia.
The Argentine superstar was unhappy with the board, specifically then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu, while Barcelona had been humiliated in their most-recent game – the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
But Messi subsequently decided to stay at Barca rather than pursue legal action in a bid to force an exit.
And Koeman has heaped praise on the six-time Ballon d’Or winner for putting the episode behind him and maintaining his desire to “win things” and “continue being the best”.
‘When I arrived, they told me Messi was unhappy,” Koeman told Spanish outlet SPORT this week. “We spoke at his house. He explained his reasons and I was honest.
“I told him that the only things I could change were football things: the system of play, his position on the pitch, his importance in the team.
“But the issues he had with the club, I could not change them.
“Messi demonstrated to me that he’s a person that wants to win things, be the best and continue being the best, even though he’s had his problems with the club.”
The Dutchman added: “Right now, Barca have been, are and are going to be a better team with Messi than without Messi.”
Messi – who is out of contract next summer – has scored six goals and provided four assists in 10 games this season, though Barcelona’s mixed start to the campaign finds them eighth in La Liga.
One player who has come under fire for his performances is Antoine Griezmann, who has two goals and one assist in nine games and is still yet to live up to the £107million fee Barca paid for him last summer.
“He’s working well, although he said himself a few weeks ago his performances have to improve,” Koeman said.
“The players pass through moments of doubts and we have to help them find their best form, but at the end of the day it’s in the hands of the player.”