After Setien exited the club in August, he was quoted as saying that the 6 time Ballon d’Or winner was difficult to manage. Though this came out as a surprise to many due to the cool-headed nature of Messi on the pitch, Setien attempted to attribute some of his failures at FC Barcelona to the difficulties he encountered in his effort to manage Lionel Messi.
However, on Tuesday, November 3, Ronald Koeman who took over from Setien in August has defended the club’s talisman insisting that the 33-year-old football icon is a very good player and does not have difficulties in managing him.
While noting that he respects the perspective of Setien about Lionel Messi, Ronald Koeman said he and Barcelona’s captain are having a good relationship on and off the field.
“I don’t agree [with Setien] but I respect his opinion and what he has experienced,” said Koeman ahead of Barcelona’s UEFA Champions League match against Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday, November 4.
“Messi is a very good player, the best in the world,” Koeman added. “I see his ambition but he is not a player I have difficulty managing.
“Every coach is different – but for me, he is the captain and I talk to him every week about things in the dressing room and on the pitch and there is a good relationship.”
Though Setien was sacked due to a poor run of games and the humiliating 8-2 defeat in the hands of Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals stage of the Champions League last season, Koeman and his talisman have not been able to do much for the club so far.
Since Koeman took over the running of the club and Lionel Messi finally agreed to stay after weeks of attempting to leave the club for free, the Argentine football icon who has scored over 637 goals for Barcelona has found it difficult to find the back of the net in recent time.
So far this season, the reigning world best footballer of the year has only managed to score 3 goals in all competitions and has provided 4 assists in 8 matches which are less than what the iconic footballer can do when playing at his best.
The fact that Messi has not been able to play at his very best this season has forced the club to remain in the 12th spot on the league table after 6 La Liga matches. But the club is sitting comfortably on the top spot of Champions League group G table.
“I understand the criticism,” Koeman said. “Two points from the last four games are not good and it is normal for criticism to come. I accept it and keep working to improve things.”