New Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman sought out Lionel Messi for a private chat ahead of the Argentine’s first training session back at the club since being denied a transfer. Messi informed Barcelona last month that he wanted to leave and would be triggering a clause in his contract that allowed him to do so on a free transfer, though the Catalan club insisted the clause had expired and any suitors would need to pay his €700m release fee. The 33-year-old gave an explosive interview last week slamming club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, though begrudgingly accepted he would remain at Camp Nou this season.
On Monday, Messi reported to the club’s Ciutat Esportiva training facility for his first training session and arrived half-an-hour before the rest of the first-team squad.
According to Mundo Deportivo, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner was keen to lead by example and show his teammates he is still as committed as ever despite having wanted to leave the club. Before the training session, Koeman took Messi aside for a quick chat – their first since the Argentine told him he wanted to leave Camp Nou.
According to Mundo, Koeman told Messi how happy he is that his star player would be staying at Barca but stressed that he only wants players who are committed to the club. Messi insisted that this was the case and promised he will return to his best form, while Koeman said he will treat him as a ‘special’ player – though he will not receive the special treatment he was afforded under previous managers, with Koeman wanting to break away from the power certain individuals have wielded.
Koeman and Messi only spoke briefly before training, though the attacker was encouraged by his manager’s words as he promised to make Barca one of Europe’s most feared teams again. Both Messi and Philippe Coutinho trained alone in Monday’s session, building up their fitness, but they will link up with the rest of the squad for a double session on Tuesday.