Ronald Koeman has challenged his Barcelona players to ‘bring more’ following Lionel Messi’s move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi had been Barça’s talisman for well over a decade and his influence did not wane last campaign, with the forward registering 38 goals and 14 assists in all competitions.
His contract expired in the summer and after Barcelona’s dire financial situation and prevented them from offering him fresh terms, he joined PSG on a free transfer.
Addressing Messi’s departure before his side’s La Liga opener against Real Sociedad on Sunday, Koeman said the club had to move on from the disappointment.
“We have to understand that there is always an end for a player. You have to close the book because now we have to focus on this new season,” he told ESPN.
“We have new players in and we have to move forward, and we have time for that. We have young players in the squad this season, and it’s also for the future, we are working on the future of this club, and it’s really important to have our focus on this and not focus on what happened in the last few days.”
The most obvious challenge facing Barcelona this season is replacing Messi’s goals. Sergio Aguero, signed on a free transfer from Manchester City earlier in the summer, is likely to be an important player but he will miss the start of the season through injury.
Despite Aguero’s absence, Koeman tipped other players in his squad to rise to the challenge.
“Of course we will have more difficulties to score goals. Messi scored 30 goals last season. So other players need to bring more and take the next step and it’s more about the team now than individual players,” he said.
“It’s not always one player, you have to do it together. Hopefully, we get players back from injury like Ansu Fati and Coutinho and then we still have a strong squad. We will work harder, we will do more to achieve what people expect from us.”