Messi's future is in his hands – Koeman

By Sports Desk February 06, 2021

Ronald Koeman has reiterated his desire for Lionel Messi to stay at Barcelona, although he once again acknowledged it is the player who will make the final decision.

Messi wanted to leave Barca last year but stayed on to see out the final year of his contract, details of which were recently leaked to the Spanish press.

The revelation of Messi's earnings – potentially worth in excess of €555million over the course of four years – came as Barca's debts reportedly rose above €1.1billion, with the coronavirus pandemic dealing a huge blow to the club's finances.

Despite the speculation surrounding his future, Messi has continued to perform for Barca, scoring 16 goals across all competitions this season.

He missed two games due to suspension in January but returned to score against Rayo Vallecano in the Copa del Rey, followed by the opener in Barca's most recent LaLiga match, a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao.

Koeman said in midweek that he still hoped Messi would eventually choose to remain at Barca and extend his contract, though the coach conceded he was not confident of that happening.

Speaking ahead of Sunday's game with Real Betis, the former Netherlands boss again stressed Messi's future is in his own hands.

"I said the other day: I think there's one person that can decide his future and that is Leo Messi himself," Koeman told a news conference.

"Us as a club and me as a manager, of course, I would like that he stays here for many more years and we can try to make him feel good, make sure he's happy, because if he's happy, like he is this season, he gives us a lot of quality, which we need.

"He is a player with incredible talent and, on top of that, I think his morale is also very high at the moment; he's got good energy and he helps us a lot. The future is in his hands."

Messi has created 14 goalscoring chances following a ball carry (moving with the ball five or more metres) in LaLiga this season – more than any other player – although he has failed to assist in this way. 

The 33-year-old has an exceptional record against Betis, having had a direct hand in 31 goals in 21 LaLiga appearances against the Andalusian club, scoring 21 times and providing 10 assists, while he has either scored or assisted on each of his past five league visits to Benito Villamarin.

Messi is still the main man at Barca, but Antoine Griezmann has finally rediscovered the form which earned him his big-money move from Atletico Madrid.

Griezmann scored twice and set up two more as Barca laboured to a 5-3 extra-time victory over Granada in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday, a result which Koeman celebrated passionately on the touchline.

"I remember that I called him when I signed for Barcelona," Koeman said of Griezmann, who ranks fifth in the Blaugrana squad for league chances created this season (21) but leads the way on assists (four), while his goal tally of six is bettered only by Messi (12).

"I told him that I had a lot of confidence in him. I told him that he should know that he is important.

"Although he started without effectiveness, he has recovered. I have never doubted him. Besides, he is also his own critic.

"You can't ask for more from Griezmann, he's very important to us.

"I can't deny that the other day I was very happy after the game. I don't know for how long. Today it's sunny and tomorrow it may rain.

"I really liked the game the other day, but tomorrow is another game. We have to prove ourselves yet again that we are on the right track."

Related items

  • Fritz scrapes past Cressy to take Eastbourne title again Fritz scrapes past Cressy to take Eastbourne title again

    Taylor Fritz earned his third ATP Tour title and second at the Eastbourne International as he defeated fellow American Maxime Cressy 6-2 6-7 (4-7) 7-6 (7-4) in Saturday's final.

    Three years on from Fritz's breakthrough tour triumph against Sam Querrey – another compatriot – at the same event, the world number 24 was celebrating again in the last tournament before Wimbledon.

    Paris-born opponent Cressy had defeated a trio of home hopefuls in succession in Britons Dan Evans, Cameron Norrie and Jack Draper to reach this stage, but Fritz had just too much.

    While the Indian Wells Masters champion had not lost a break all week and maintained that record through the decider, he was taken all the way.

    "I played about as well as I could possibly play today, and it still came down to the final couple of points," Fritz said afterwards. "It couldn't have been much closer."

    That had not appeared likely after an opener in which Fritz's return game dominated 6ft 6in serve-and-volley specialist Cressy, who was broken immediately following a double-fault.

    That was one of four in the first set – as many as in three against Draper – as Cressy won just half of his service points, broken again to love.

    Yet neither player faced another break point, with a pair of tie-breaks required to settle the title.

    The first went the way of Cressy, forcing a decider as a pair of powerful forehands finally broke down Fritz, but he required treatment between sets and had clearly tired by the closing stages.

    The latest in a series of Fritz lobs proved beyond Cressy, not that the result should have come as any surprise – improving the champion's career record in deciding tie-breaks to an astonishing 20-3.

  • Bronze 'scored one of them in training', says Williamson after England and Barcelona star's bizarre goal Bronze 'scored one of them in training', says Williamson after England and Barcelona star's bizarre goal

    England captain Leah Williamson was full of praise for Lucy Bronze after the Lionesses emphatic 5-1 friendly win against the Netherlands on Friday.

    Bronze, Beth Mead, who netted a double, Ella Toone and Lauren Hemp scored to seal an emphatic victory for Sarina Wiegman's side in Leeds.

    England had fallen 1-0 behind to a Lieke Martens header, before Bronze put a cross into the box that somehow found its way into the net.

    A Netherlands penalty was missed by the Dutch captain, Sherida Spitse, who was making her 200th international appearance, before the hosts put on a show in the second half at Elland Road, bagging four more goals to ease to victory.

    "Lucy scored one of them in training yesterday, so I was trying to tell her to take it," a smiling Williamson told Stats Perform after the game. "But at the end of the day she's got forward and we've seen her in that position so many times that when she gets there she'll take it for the team.

    "But also the state of the game and the penalty, it's not great, but our reaction after, you can't change that."

    Following the win, Netherlands boss Mark Parsons said England are favourites for next month's Women's Euro 2022 tournament, and Williamson was asked if teams are playing against them with some fear.

    "A little bit, I think, we're playing well, we're the home nation. It's a brilliant combo to have," she said. 

    "Other countries will potentially look at the score lines and think 'Yeah, England are doing really well,' But I think we've just got to stay focused on what we're doing and what our job is.

    "We know that even though we won 5-1 tonight, there was many things that we can work on, and get better at. Being clinical is something that we've wanted to improve on and we've obviously done that tonight and in a lot of the games previously with Sarina [Wiegman].

    "I mean, if I was on another team, I don't really pay too much attention to score lines, because you don't know the ins and outs of the game. But I'm sure a lot of people will be speaking about us.

    "We're very much focused on the one game at a time cliche."

  • Wimbledon: Swiatek 'pretty overwhelmed' to see Serena back in SW19 Wimbledon: Swiatek 'pretty overwhelmed' to see Serena back in SW19

    Serena Williams' presence at Wimbledon has left world number one Iga Swiatek "pretty overwhelmed".

    Williams is making her long-awaited return to action at the All England Club, as the 40-year-old takes another shot at matching Margaret Court's record of 24 grand slam victories.

    The American has played only two competitive matches – both alongside Ons Jabeur in the doubles at the Eastbourne International – since she sustained a hamstring tear at last year's Wimbledon, but is back on a wildcard.

    Three years ago, Williams became the oldest player to reach Wimbledon's women's singles final when she lost to Simona Halep. Six years ago, she was the oldest champion when she beat Angelique Kerber, although it seems a long shot for her to be challenging for honours this time around.

    That is in part due to the remarkable form of top seed Swiatek, who heads to SW19 on the back of a 35-match winning streak that she is aiming to extend.

    The Pole was not born when Williams made her Wimbledon debut in 1998, but she was the junior champion at the All England Club in 2018 and has since won the French Open twice. She is aiming to become the first woman since Kerber in 2016 to win two singles slams in the same season.

    Yet Swiatek remains in awe of Williams.

    "I saw her yesterday, I was pretty overwhelmed," said Swiatek in a news conference on Saturday.

    "I didn't know how to react. I wanted to meet her. I saw that she had so many people around her. I don't know her team. It was pretty weird.

    "But just seeing her around is great because she's such a legend, there's nobody that has done so much in tennis.

    "I'm pretty sure that she's going to be in good shape because she has so much experience coming back from breaks or just playing in grand slams. I think she can use it."

    Swiatek has never progressed past the fourth round of the singles at Wimbledon and will be making her first appearance of the season on grass when she takes on Jana Fett on Tuesday.

    "Honestly I still feel like I need to figure out grass," she said. "Last year for sure, it was that kind of tournament where I didn't know what to expect.

    "Then match by match I realised maybe I can do more and more.

    "I didn't have a lot of time to prepare. But I'm just trying to stay open-minded and kind of take positives from the situation and realise that I can play without any expectations."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.