The coach of FC Barcelona, Ronald Koeman said the absence of Lionel Messi was felt in the La Liga match between the club and Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, August 21, 2021.
The Dutch tactician believes that since the 6 times Ballon d’Or winner left the club, opposing teams don’t longer have as much respect for Barcelona as they would if Messi was still in the squad.
Recall that Lionel Messi left FC Barcelona after the Spanish club failed to offer him a new contract. His over 20-year relationship with the Spanish giants ended on June 30, 2021.
Before the 34-year-old Argentina international officially joined Paris Saint Germain, Barcelona tried to renew his contract but due to the financial difficulties at the club, the Spanish giants were not able to offer him a new deal.
Hence, Messi accepted PSG’s 2-year deal on August 11, 2021, which reportedly pays him over £960,000-per-week. Since then, he has not played any competitive game for PSG but he is expected to play his debut against Reims which will kick off at 19:45 on Sunday, August 29.
As for Ronald Koeman and his boys at FC Barcelona, they have been trying to forge ahead without their talisman and captain. They started the 2021-2022 season on a good note by defeating Real Sociedad 4-2 on August 15.
After the game, most fans of the club thought Barcelona are ready to do without Lionel Messi due to the emphatic victory over Real Sociedad. However, the reverse was the case on Saturday, August 21, as they struggled to draw 1-1 against Athletic Bilbao.
Coach Ronald Koeman believes that FC Barcelona would have done better against Athletic Bilbao if Lionel Messi was still at the club. The Dutch tactician holds this belief because Messi enjoys scoring against Athletic Bilbao.
“I don’t like to always talk about the same thing, but we’re talking about the best in the world”, Ronald Koeman said. “Our opponents had more fear when Messi was here.
“For us as well, if you pass the ball to Leo, usually he won’t lose it. You can tell [Messi] isn’t there. We know that and we can’t change it.”
On FC Barcelona’s overall performance, Ronald Koeman added that: “It was a great game for many things in football. I think we made things too difficult for ourselves at the start of the game.
“They pressed us a lot and well. We need to know when we can play short, from the keeper as well. We weren’t calm enough in the first 15 minutes.
“I think a draw is a fair result, we had chances to win, Athletic were at a very high level. Playing like that, this is a very tough ground, so I can’t be unhappy with the result.”
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Why Ronald Koeman missed Lionel Messi in the match between FC Barcelona vs Athletic Bilbao
In his 17 years at FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi has always enjoyed playing against Athletic Bilbao. The Spanish club is regarded as his favorite club due to the number of goals he has scored against them.
For instance, when Lionel Messi was at FC Barcelona, he played 37 times against Athletic Bilbao. He hardly played against the Spanish club without scoring or providing an assist.
Records show that Lionel Messi has scored 29 goals and provided 11 assists in 37 games. This means that the former Barcelona talisman has more than a goal contribution against Athletic Bilbao in every game he has played against the team.
Messi played his last game against Athletic Bilbao on April 17, 2021. In the game which was Copa del Rey’s final, Messi scored two goals in Barcelona’s 4-0 win over Bilbao. His effort earned Barca their only trophy of the 2020-2021 season.