Barcelona President insists Lionel Messi is not for sale
Amid exit rumours, FC Barcelona's President, Josep Bartomeu has stated that the club's best player, Lionel Messi will stay at the club come next season saying "he is the pillar of the new project".
Since Barcelona's 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-final, there have been rumours linking the club's captain Lionel Messi with a move away from Spain.
Barcelona superstar Messi was left unhappy after the club's humiliating defeat in the hands of German Champions Bayern Munich
After the defeat, Barcelona concluded and sacked their coach Quique Setién after a poor run of form by the club under his care, with Messi, also said to be unhappy with the coach.
Some days later, there were reports that the club has agreed to hire Netherlands' head coach Ronald Koeman as the club's new manager. The club on Wednesday confirmed Koeman as their new manager.
Ronald Koeman will be taking up Barcelona's managing role after confirmation from the club
Messi, the Pillar of Koeman's project
Following the confirmation, Barcelona President Bartomeu revealed that Messi will be at the club next season and said that the new coach had already made him the "pillar of his project".
"Messi has said many times that he wants to finish his career at Barca. Koeman has said to us that Messi is the pillar of his project," Bartomeu told Barca TV.
"He has a contract until 2021. I talk to the player and his father regularly. Despite Lisbon's disappointment, I do not doubt that we will be excited about the new project. Messi is still the best player in the world, and we have him with us.
"I have not spoken to Messi, but I have spoken to his father. The pain is behind us. We have to be optimistic, and we have to pick ourselves up, work hard and excite everyone.
"A cycle is coming to an end, and another one starts but in the Messi era."
He also added that Ansu Fati, who is the youngest player in the senior team, is not for sale amid offers from different clubs in Europe.
"We have received offers for Ansu Fati, but we don't want to sell him. We want to grow here," said Bartomeu.
The unhappiness in the squad
Since 2017 when Neymar left Barcelona for PSG, the club has acquired the services of high profile players such as Ousmane Dembélé from Borussia Dortmund in a deal worth more than €105m, Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool for £105m and Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid for €120m.
Dembele, Coutinho and Greizmann were all bought to replace Neymar in different seasons at Barcelona
The big players were expected to fill the void left by Neymar, who, combined with Messi and Luiz Suarez, the MSN group used to score more than 100 goals in a season. There formed a formidable attacking force and were the most feared attacking three in Europe before Neymar's exit.
Barcelona has not reached the Champions League final since Neymar left for PSG, and it has left the six-time Ballon d'Or winner (Messi) frustrated and unhappy with the club's board.
The MSN combination in Barcelona had a very good impact at the club, with loads of goals, and attacking threats, this is darely missed right now
In the 2019 Champion League season, Barcelona came close to reaching the final of the competition for the first time in four years after beating Liverpool 3-0 in the first leg of the semi-final.
But a dramatic comeback from Liverpool in the 2nd leg of the game saw the Spanish club lose 4-0 and thrashed out of the tournament in a 4-3 aggregate. Ever since then, Barca has looked out of form, depth, initiative and lacking confidence.
Out of frustration, for a player of Lionel Messi's calibre, the Argentine said that he would be left unhappy if the club does not win the next Champions League title after the match. And that has happened once again, in succession, and this time, even more humiliating.
Lionel Messi was left frustrated after Liverpool's 4-0 defeat in the Champions League semi-final 2nd leg game at the Anfield, in 2019
"The defeat against Liverpool was our fault," said Messi. "What happened to us in that match can not. We blocked ourselves. The Rome thing happened to us. It didn't happen because of a thing with the coach.
"But neither was it my decision for him to stay like it was said somewhere." The Barca star added: "I would be disappointed to spend another year without winning the Champions League."
The current defeat in the 2019/2020 Champions League has increased players' and Messi's unhappiness with the board, and that has resulted in him being linked with a move away from Barcelona.
After Bayern loss, Barcelona's veteran Gerard Pique, who has played with Messi for years, called for changes in the club.
"We feel devastated, although shame is the real word I'm looking for. We cannot afford to compete like this because it's not the first, the second, or the third time that something like this has happened.
Barcelona players were left frustrated after conceding 8 goals against Bayern Munich
"This is very painful, but I hope it serves some purpose. We all need to reflect deeply; the club needs lots of changes. I’m not talking about the coach, players - I don't want to point the finger at anyone, but the club needs changes on a structural level.
"If new blood needs to come for the club to change course, then I'm not untouchable, and I'll be the first to leave if needs be because it seems as if we've hit rock bottom.
"We all have to reflect on what is the best thing for the club and Barca."
The beginning of a new era
Barcelona sporting director Bartomeu has stated that the club has a "sporting crisis" that needs to be changed.
"The model and the style of play is the same, but there are aspects of the model that have to be improved," he said.
"We have to strengthen and develop with more physical football. We need talent and a footballing idea but also other physical aspects that perhaps before we did not take into account."
The president added that some players who are not part of the new coach's plan would be sorted out amicably.
"Ramon Planes will be in charge of the technical side," said Bartomeu. "The decisions that are to be taken in conjunction with the technical secretary and the new coach.
"There will be an individual conversation with each player that is not part of the plans. They are legendary players, and they need to leave with honours, but we have to talk case by case."
"The renewal is not just about changing players; it is changing part of the structure of the football team," added Bartomeu. "The renewal will go deeper than the players. Barca has money, but it has a problem with the wage bill.
"COVID has meant a reduction in income, and for that reason, we have to reduce the wage bill to bring in new players.
"In the 20/21 season, we will lose 320 million euros ($382.3 million) of income, and the effect of COVID will be more serious than that of the season that has just finished."
Koeman and the Barca philosophy
Koeman, a former Barcelona player and assistant coach, knows the Barcelona philosophy; he understands the club's style of play, breaths and lives in Barcelona. He is a club's man, and the club's president affirmed that this is one of the major reasons he was appointed for the job.
"If nothing takes a wrong turn, Koeman will be Barca coach for next season," he said, "We know him and how he thinks and also his experience. He knows the Barca philosophy well and believes in the Barça style, and for that reason, he is the one chosen."