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12-Sep-2020, 01:07 am

Koeman hopeful Messi can return to best form following Barcelona transfer saga

Lionel Messi Barcelona

Ronald Koeman has challenged Lionel Messi to deliver his best form at Barcelona after his dramatic summer transfer saga.

After seeming destined to leave Camp Nou earlier in the window, Messi confirmed in an exclusive interview with Goal that he will remain in La Liga – and outlined his reasons for wanting to move.

Messi notched 31 goals and 26 assists in 44 games last season and, with Barca finishing 2019-20 in disarray, new boss Koeman will need his star man on top form to turn things around.

"He is the best, I have said it many times,” Koeman told BarcaTV+.

“Messi is a very important player and he has shown it for many years. I hope he can do it again this season."

Barca legend Rivaldo has said he wouldn’t be surprised to see Messi sign a new contract at the club now this summer’s drama has passed.

In the meantime, Koeman will lead his new side in a match for the first time on Saturday. Barca face second-division Gimnastic de Tarragona in a friendly game at their Ciudad Esportiva training base.

With a relatively quick turnaround from their humbling Champions League campaign in Lisbon, they are now building up to their first La Liga fixture, against Villarreal on September 27.

"Things are very positive, we have been in for two weeks and the players are working very well,” Koeman said.

“There is some physical intensity, and now it will be necessary to work on tactics. The players have shown courage, interest and intensity and that is important because for me, you train how you play. I am very happy with the work we have done.

"It is complicated because it is a short pre-season of four weeks before the first game against Villarreal.

“It is a unique pre-season because some have played games and others have had more rest. We want everyone to be at full capacity in the first game, we want to be in good shape to start La Liga.”

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