Koeman admits Barca still ‘need’ 33-year-old talisman

Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman stated his hope that Lionel Messi will commit his future to the Catalans after a dazzling performance from the Argentine saw off Granada on Saturday.

Messi stated his desire to leave Barca on a free transfer last summer, only to withdraw his request when it became clear that the club would not allow him to go if another side did not meet his astronomic release clause.

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner will be out of contract in June, though, and is now free to speak to overseas clubs with regards to a move.

Barca nevertheless hold out hope he will stay beyond 2021 and, after Messi netted twice in Saturday’s 4-0 drubbing of Granada, Koeman affirmed he is essential to the club’s fortunes.

“Barca need Messi, we need him to achieve great things and fight for the titles,” the coach explained to reporters after the final whistle, having withdrawn the captain for Martin Braithwaite after little more than an hour played.

“With the score, we were able to make changes and rest very important players like Messi and De Jong.

“If all the players are in good condition, we can compete for all the titles. This streak of results gives us a lot of confidence.”

Young midfielder Riqui Puig appeared for only the third time in La Liga this season off the bench, having been largely frozen out by Koeman in his debut season as coach.

“I have nothing against Riqui Puig,” Koeman said when asked about his relationship with the 21-year-old.

“We have very young players like Konrad, Matheus and Junior who don’t have many minutes, but you always think I’m talking about Riqui. I have no problem with him, we talk often. His future? He has to decide.”

As well as Messi, Antoine Griezmann also had plenty to celebrate on Saturday as he scored twice; and the Frenchman stated his hope that the goals would help him revive what has been a difficult season for him.

“We needed to win and get this streak going. In the second half our players were able to rest,” he stated.

“The goals? The goals are coming. We are gaining confidence.”