The Dutch tactician however rated the football intelligence of Barcelona legend Johan Cruyff above that of Messi. He said only Cruyff has more football intelligence than Messi among all the footballers he has ever seen and met.
Ronald Koeman admitted that Lionel Messi had good players around him when he was at FC Barcelona but the 34-year-old Argentine football icon made all the players around him looked better.
Recall that Messi started his football career at FC Barcelona in the early 2000s. When he made it into the club’s senior team in 2004, the record 6 times Ballon d’Or winner became unstoppable.
He played for Barcelona senior team for at least 17 years before the club failed to offer him a new contract due to the club’s financial crisis. The Argentina international moved to Paris Saint Germain in August as a free agent.
Before things turned sour between Messi and FC Barcelona, the 34-year-old Argentine forward helped the Spanish giants to win 35 major titles including four UEFA Champions League and 10 Serie A titles.
Messi worked under Ronald Koeman for a full season before it became clear that he would not be able to continue his career at the club. During his last season at the club, Koeman led him to win the Copa del Rey.
After the expiration of his contract with Barcelona on June 30, 2021, Messi won his first Copa America for Argentina on July 11. He was expected to return to Barcelona ahead of the 2021-2022 season with a renewed zeal to do more for the club. But it was not to be.
While Koeman was revealing how Messi hates to lose, the Dutch tactician described the Argentine football icon as a “tyrant”.
“Lionel Messi has obscured everything. He was so good and he won,” Ronald Koeman told Voetbal International.
“Of course he had good players around him, but he made the difference. Everyone seems better than they are because of him. This is not a criticism, but an observation.
“I knew how good he is, but it’s still nice to see it up close every day. Everything you would like to teach a football player, in recognizing situations, in taking the ball under pressure, in ball speed, in finishing; with Messi, everything is a 10. Not normal, not normal!
“When we did a finishing practice during training, there were sometimes players who started to hit easy balls, a bit of fooling around. But with Messi, everything was: boom, boom, boom, boom. Never frills, everything functional. And always wanted to win everything.
“We always play a rondo before training. If the ball goes around 20 times, then the players in the middle must have an extra turn. If that happens three times in a row, the players will form two lines, and the two who were in the middle then walkthrough and get taps on their heads and such.
“I asked Messi if it had happened to him once. ‘Yes, once,’ he said. In all those years. With him, the older players never lost an exercise against the young. It happened once and Messi was seriously angry about that for a week. Really, a tyrant.”
Ronald Koeman revealed how things have changed at Barcelona without Messi
Lionel Messi is currently struggling to adapt to football at Paris Saint Germain which is the first club outside Barcelona. Also, FC Barcelona are struggling to cope without their former talisman.
In the absence of Messi, Barcelona have suffered two defeats and recorded two victories in La Liga this season. They are currently sitting on the 8 spot with 8 points in four games.
Ahead of the Barcelona league game against Cadiz on Thursday which will kick off at 21:00, Ronald Koeman said a player like Ansu Fati who used to look up to Messi is not training with full concentration as much as he used to when Messi was still at the club.
Koeman said: “When I first became coach, I had a conversation with him at his house in Castelldefels. What immediately struck me was how involved he felt and how much he is interested in football.
“The start was difficult, he later apologized for that. Messi must have the idea that there is a future in what he does. But he started to get more and more enthusiastic.
“The performance with Messi is perfect. We now sometimes do pass and kick practices, where you had to shoot the ball into a small goal, around a post. The other day I saw Ansu Fati shoot three meters wide, simply due to lack of concentration. But he wouldn’t have done that if Messi had still been there. Then he got set right, Messi became furious. That never happened to [Messi].
“I have never met anyone except Johan Cruyff with his football intelligence. Alfred [Schreuder, Koeman’s assistant] sometimes explained the exercises in English and Messi does not speak that very well. But after a few seconds, he knew it.
“He delivered 50 goals last year: 30 goals, 20 assists. He was an example for the players. When we won the cup, Messi had won so many trophies, bigger than this one, but you saw that the Copa del Rey really did something for him this time. With those young players in there, he saw the future of the club. All those guys wanted to take a picture with him, I’ve never seen anything like it.
“That’s how big he was and is. It was a shock to the whole town that he’s not here now.”