Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman admitted Sunday he would “prefer to still have Lionel Messi” in his team.
Koeman saw his Messi-less side start their Liga campaign with a 4-2 win over Real Sociedad, 10 days after the Argentina star revealed he was ending his 20-year career at the club.
“Hey, if I had to choose, I would still prefer to have Leo Messi in my team,” said Koeman.
“We no longer have a player who can decide the fate of matches on his own — now it will be a collective effort.”
Messi, 34, has moved to Paris Saint-Germain, one of the few clubs who can afford to pay him.
Koeman praised the patience and support of the 20,000 inside Camp Nou as crowds were allowed to return for the first time since the start of the pandemic 18 months ago.
“From the start, our supporters pushed us, they were behind the team. It makes a huge difference,” said Koeman.
“If you compare a game like this with a game from last year, it’s totally different. As I said before, the image of the team is the most important thing.”