The current head coach of La Liga club FC Barcelona Ronald Koeman has refuted claims that soccer celebrity Lionel Messi is a handful, saying he didn’t find him difficult to work with at all.
“I respect all opinions. For me Leo is the best player in the world, I am seeing his ambition and winning character,' the Dutch professional football manager and former player was quoted by Goal as saying ahead of Barcelona’s Champions League matchup against Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday night.
“I have no difficulties to lead [him]. He is the captain and I talk to him every week. I see things differently from Setien and I do not agree [with his opinion],” said Koeman.
The comments came after his predecessor Spanish football manager Quique Setien had earlier claimed the Argentine superstar was 'difficult to manage' last week.
In an interview with El Pais, Quique Setien, 62, who had resigned as Barcelona's manager after the team’s humiliating loss to Bayern Munich (2-8) in the Champions League, had said:
"There are players that aren't easy to manage, and Leo is one of them. You also have to remember that he's the best player in history and who am I to try and change him as a player? I can't do anything if those at the club have accepted him for how he is and haven't changed him for years.”
Quique Setien went on to liken the six-time Ballon d'Or winner to basketball legend Michael Jordan, telling the former Spanish football manager Vicente del Bosque:
"It's not just the player that you have to manage, there is another side and that is much more complicated. It's something which is built into many sportspeople as we saw in the Michael Jordan documentary [The Last Dance]. You see things that you don't expect to see."
According to media reports in Spain, Setien had told Messi:
“If you don't like what I said, you know where the door is,” after he criticised his tactics following a draw against Celta Vigo in June.
Messi, who plays forward and captains both Spanish club Barcelona and the Argentina national team, was thrust into the public eye this summer after a much-commented-on transfer saga.
In late August, media reported that Messi had informed Barcelona about his desire to terminate his current contract.
The Argentinian also reportedly announced his desire to move to Manchester City, while other media stories suggested possible moves to PSG or Italian giants Juventus. However, in September, Lionel Messi confirmed he was to stay on with the Spanish football club that he has been playing for since 2004.
Dutchman Koeman, who retained the services of Messi in his squad, has been under pressure recently, after the club’s lackluster start to a La Liga season with just eight points from six games after a 1-1 draw with Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.
Barcelona's last four league matches:— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) October 31, 2020
Draw vs. Sevilla
Loss vs. Getafe
Loss vs. Real Madrid
Draw vs. Alaves
They currently sit in 12th place. pic.twitter.com/4ulhCK72Lw
Koeman, however, has been trying to stay positive.
“My future at Barcelona is not the most important thing. You have to live day by day and try to win the games… We ask for peace of mind and time because we are changing a lot of things. In La Liga we have been good, but we have not gotten good results. In the rest I have no influence. I will do my best to stay a long time.”
The Champions League on Wednesday night pits Barcelona against Dynamo Kiev at Camp Nou in their third group game.