FC Barcelona are coping with their first season without Lionel Messi in two decades. The La Liga Santander competition has just started, but manager Ronald Koeman is ready to admit that they are already missing the presence of the Argentine on the pitch.
Koeman planned his 2021-22 season with Messi in mind, but now that the former captain has left the club, he is forced to adjust his strategy and rebuild his team without the core. Club president Joan Laporta had always insisted that he will convince Messi to stay, but unfortunately, even if the player had the desire to continue, the club's financial crisis made it impossible.
Barcelona managed to create a positive start to the season with a convincing 4-2 victory against Real Sociedad in their opening La Liga fixture. However, they only managed to come from behind to force a draw against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.
Koeman admitted that Messi always delivered the goods against the Basque side, and he was definitely missed during the match. Incidentally, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner scored most of his club goals against Athletic.
"I don't like to always talk about it, but we are talking about the best player in the world," the Dutchman said as quoted by Marca. He also explained how the Argentine's mere presence on the pitch makes an immediate impact against the opposing team.
"The opposition is more afraid when Messi is there. If you give Leo a pass, he usually doesn't lose the ball. You can tell he is not here. We know that but it can't be changed," he added.
Luckily for the Blaugrana, new summer signing Memphis Depay was there to help them salvage a point from the match. He scored a late equaliser thanks to a solo effort with only 15 minutes left in regulation.
Barcelona may be missing Messi, but Koeman knows that there isn't anything they can do to bring him back. They need to adapt to the post-Messi era quickly in order to challenge for this season's title.
Meanwhile, Messi's new club Paris Saint-Germain are yet to see the benefits of having him on the roster. Mauricio Pochettino is taking his time in calling up his blockbuster signing, and fans are still waiting to see Messi in active competition.