Ronald Koeman addressed the controversy surrounding Leo Messi and Luis Suarez during his press conference ahead of Barcelona’s game against Villarreal.
Messi, who is a close friend of the Uruguay striker, criticized the club over the manner of Suarez’s departure to Atletico Madrid having attempted to leave himself amid a general sense of gloom surrounding Camp Nou following the 8-2 mauling at the hands of Bayern Munich and growing disillusion over the mandate of club president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Koeman made it plain as soon as he was installed that he did not require Suarez’s services and the way the issue was handled has not sat well with Messi, who has become very vocal in his criticism of the club hierarchy over the course of the last year. The Dutchman though said that his star player has been leading by example as Barça seek to put a miserable 2019-20 campaign behind them. “It’s normal that a player is sad when a friend leaves. It is part of football. But the most important thing is that he has been an example to the others during training and in games. He has shown in training that he is focused and I have no doubts over Messi in that regard,” Koeman said. Speaking about Suarez, the Dutchman said that it had been an amicable parting of ways. “I have to say that it seems like I’m the bad guy over Suarez. And that is not the case. After I spoke to Luis I showed respect to the player and the person that he is. He gave his all in training from day one and I told him that even though it would be difficult for him to play, if he stayed he would still be a member of the squad. And the club said the same thing. It was the club’s decision. The club, before I was hired as coach, made some decisions. It was not just my decision as the manager, but the club’s as a whole. We are looking to change the team. There are young players coming through. Luis and I respect each other and we spoke frankly. At the end of the day he’s moved to Atlético and I wish him all the luck in the world.”