Gerard Pique has put Lionel Messi’s imminent departure from Barcelona down to the former board’s poor running of the club.
The Catalan giants announced in a shock statement on Thursday that Messi will not be extending his 21-year stay at Camp Nou due to the club’s dire financial situation.
Messi, who scored 672 times in 778 appearances for the LaLiga side, is now expected to complete a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain.
Despite the Argentina international agreeing to take a 50 per cent pay cut, Barcelona were unable to honour the new contract agreed with him due to LaLiga’s salary cap limit.
Barca are estimated to be in around €1.2billion of debt, a hangover from the previous Josep Maria Bartomeu regime which spanned from 2014 until 2020 when he was ousted.
Pique has spent the last 13 years playing alongside Messi and believes the situation could have been avoided.
“This has not been one of the best days for us. We have lost the best of all time,” Pique said following Barca’s 3-0 win over Juventus in Sunday’s Joan Gamper Trophy clash at Estadi Johan Cruyff.
“We knew this day would arrive, but the team was still touched, especially those of us who spent many years sharing a dressing room with him.
“The management of recent years has not been the best and that has penalised us.”
Messi’s name was chanted throughout the prestigious friendly with Juve, with goals from Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite and Riqui Puig earning Barca a routine victory.
Ronald Koeman spoke ahead of the game about an exciting future despite the loss of Messi and reiterated after the victory that it is important his side put the saga behind them.
“It is normal that when a player like Messi leaves it will be hard for everyone, but we have to turn the page because we cannot change this situation,” he said.
“You have to play well and win, work more. Others can occupy that position and have a leading role. But we will no longer have Leo. We have to turn the page and be hopeful.”
Messi’s departure could have a knock-on impact for Koeman, with fellow Argentina international Sergio Aguero reportedly looking to leave Camp Nou before kicking a ball.
Aguero was ruled out of Barca’s final pre-season outing with a calf problem, but Koeman denied suggestions the striker wants to terminate the contract signed just last month.
“That is not true,” Koeman said. “He has signed and is excited. It is a pity that he was injured this morning.
“We have to wait for his recovery. It happened in training. We know that when he is fit he can contribute a lot.”
Among a number of positives on the field for Koeman during pre-season has been the form of new signing Depay, who took just three minutes to open the scoring against Juve.
The Netherlands international has three goals in four matches since arriving on a free transfer from Lyon, emphasising Koeman’s point of there being life after Messi.
“Memphis showed again today that he can be very effective,” Koeman said. “We know we must score more and the squad must improve.
“The best in the world will be missed, but you have to accept it. We are not living in the past. There is a future for this team.
“This result against Juventus was very good and achieved by playing some good football. We have taken another step and will only get better when other players return.”