Barcelona less feared without Messi, admits Koeman after Athletic Club draw

Barcelona are less feared without Lionel Messi, Ronald Koeman has admitted, with the Blaugrana manager stating that rivals were “more scared” when the Argentine was at the heart of their side.

The exit of the prolific forward after a glittering, near-two-decade career at Camp Nou, has left a major void to fill for the Catalan club this term.

An opening win in La Liga against Real Sociedad has since given way to a frustrating draw with Athletic Club – and speaking after his side were held to a stalemate, Koeman has acknowledged that without their former talisman, they have lost a major psychological edge.

What has been said?

“I don’t like to always talk about the same thing, but we’re talking about the best in the world,” the Dutchman told his post-match press conference.

“Our opponents were more scared 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.”

Koeman mulls “fair” result

Memphis Depay snatched his first goal for Barcelona and rescued a point after Inigo Martinez’s opener had put the hosts in front at San Mames, while Eric Garcia was sent off in injury time.

Koeman admitted that he had no quibbles with the result in the end, paying credit to his side’s opponents, stating: “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. 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.”

The bigger picture

As Barcelona continue to mull their post-Messi future, the Argentine is edging closer to a debut for new club Paris Saint-Germain.

Having missed their Ligue 1 openers, the 34-year-old could be in line to feature against Reims at the end of the month.

Messi will hope to get crucial minutes under his belt ahead of a likely return to the Argentina fold for their Qatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers, following his Copa America success last month.