Forced to deal with another difficult situation regarding Lionel Messi, Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman demanded more “respect” for his disgruntled star.
Koeman said he understood why Messi was visibly angry when journalists asked him about the criticism leveled at him by a former agent for his teammate Antoine Griezmann when Messi arrived in Spain on Wednesday after a long flight.
“I need to stand up for Leo because if something happened to me after a 15 hour trip on a plane back to Barcelona – you go out and there is a lot of press asking this type of question – I would be dangerous and I would hate them too. “Koeman said on Friday.
“We have to respect people like Messi more. And from what I’ve seen on the pitch and in training, there’s no problem between (Messi and Griezmann).
Eric Olhats, Griezmann’s agent until 2016, told France Football magazine last week that Messi marginalized Griezmann in his “regime of terror” at the club where the Argentine is supposed to “control everything”.
When reporters asked Messi for his answer, he replied wearily: “To be honest I’m a little tired of always being the problem for everything at this club.” This sparked another round of alarm bells at Camp Nou over Messi’s future.
Many fear that the unpleasant last episode will be another reason Messi is implementing his plan to leave the club. With his contract expiring at the end of this season, Messi will be free to negotiate with other clubs in January.
There is widespread speculation that he might be tempted to track down former manager Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.
Koeman has said that while he doesn’t think it was his job to convince Messi to stay, he is confident the 33-year-old forward will extend his 20-year stay at Barcelona.
“I hope he stays at Barcelona,” Koeman said. “I think what he has done for this club is amazing, but he is the main person to make a decision on his future.”
Barcelona will visit Atlético Madrid, the league’s only undefeated team, on Saturday.