Lionel Messi 'not a player I have difficulty managing,' says Ronald Koeman

Dutchman defends player after Argentine was criticised by former Barcelona manager

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Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has denied claims by Quique Setien that Lionel Messi is difficult to manage.

In an interview published in El Pais on Sunday, former Barca coach Setien, who was sacked in August following a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich, said he found it hard to handle Messi during his brief spell in charge.

"There are players that aren't easy to manage, and Leo is one of them," Setien said. "I can't do anything if those at the club have accepted him for how he is and haven't changed him for years."

But Koeman defended Messi when Setien's comments were put to him in a press conference on Tuesday, insisting he had a good relationship with his captain.

"Everyone has their opinion and I respect that but I can only say that Messi is a very, very good player, the best in the world. I see his ambition, his character but he is not a player I have difficulty managing.

"Every coach is different but for me he is the captain and I talk to him every week about things in the dressing room and on the pitch and there is a good relationship.

"I don't agree [with Setien] but I respect his opinion and what he has experienced."

Barcelona are in Champions League action on Wednesday when they take on Dynamo Kiev at Camp Nou.

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Barcelona beat Juventus 2-0

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Europe has offered respite from the Catalans' poor domestic form. Koeman's side sit top of the group after beating Juventus and Ferencvaros but in La Liga, they are 12th, having not won any of their last four games.

"I understand the criticism. Two points from the last four games is not good and it is normal for criticism to come. I accept it and keep working to improve things," said Koeman.

Koeman said goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is in contention to return after recovering from a knee injury.

Ter Stegen's understudy Neto was heavily criticised for an error in the 1-1 draw away to Alaves on Saturday and Koeman will hope the German proves his match fitness in training.

"He's been training with us for almost a week," Koeman said. "He looks well."

Dynamo Kiev have taken only a point from their first two Champions League games and could be weakened at Camp Nou, after six players tested positive for coronavirus on Monday.

"It influences their quality but we saw last week that Shakhtar [Donetsk] came with players out and they beat Real Madrid," said Koeman. "We can't expect them to be impacted too much."

ta/nr

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