Madrid (AFP) – Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman said on Saturday that he was “excited about the team” and urged them to avoid “living in the past” ahead of the first Liga match of the post-Lionel Messi era on Sunday against Real Sociedad.
The departure of Messi “has been painful for all the Blaugrana fans, for everything Leo has done for this club, for the type of player he is,” Koeman told a press conference.
“We will miss him a lot because he was a very important player in the history of Barca. But you can’t live in the past. Things change and I’m very excited about the team we have this year,” Koeman said.
“When we get the injured players back, we will have a very strong team to achieve great things. The team is ready, we have a lot of experience and we are ready to play. The team is ready to go, we’ve had five weeks of preparation when Leo wasn’t even present,” said Koeman who is entering his second season on the Barcelona bench.
Barcelona said they had no choice but to offload Messi as they battle to slash a 1.2 billion-euro ($1.4 billion) debt mountain. They also said their wage bill with Messi would have amounted to 110 percent of income, way over La Liga’s Financial Fair Play limit.
Barca said on Saturday that four of the club’s key players — Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets — had agreed to a salary cut.
“We know perfectly well the economic situation of the club. It needs help, in every sense. So their gesture is to be commended,” Koeman said.
He added that he still hoped to sign players.
“We are a bit short on strikers, so we have talked about the possibility of recruiting a striker of a different profile,” said Koeman.
“But it will depend on whether we can sign anyone. It all depends on Financial Fair Play. If it’s possible, it’s likely we’ll add someone up front.”