Madrid – Ronald Koeman hopes Lionel Messi’s two-match ban will be reduced after he was sent off for the first time ever playing for Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup final defeat by Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
Koeman also responded on Wednesday to Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo claiming Messi was on their wish list, by saying he would be interested in PSG’s Neymar and Kylian Mbappe too.
Messi saw red after swinging an arm at Bilbao’s Asier Villalibre towards the end of extra-time, just before Barca went down 3-2 in Seville.
The 33-year-old is now due to miss the trip to Cornella in the Copa del Rey on Thursday and Sunday’s La Liga game away to Elche, but Barca have submitted an appeal.
“The club has told me the ban is for two games and the club does not agree and now we’ll see,” said Koeman. “There is a case to be made and hopefully his sanction will be reduced. If not, we will play two games without Leo.”
Messi had been struggling with a thigh problem in the build-up to the final but Koeman said Barcelona’s captain is fit again.
“He has trained without problems this morning so that means that he has recovered well from the last game and he is fine for when he has to play after his ban. We wait to see how many games it is,” said Koeman.
Messi’s rare act of petulance prompted more speculation about his happiness and future at Barcelona.
His contract expires in the summer and Leonardo told France Football this week that “great players like Messi will always be on PSG’s wish list”.
When those comments were put to Koeman, he said: “If they ask me if I’m interested in Neymar and Mbappe, I would also say yes. I don’t know what might happen in the future but what we have to do is try to have the best possible squad.”
The surprise loss to Athletic Bilbao ended a run of nine games unbeaten for Barcelona and prevented Koeman from lifting his first trophy as the club’s coach.
“We were gutted, which is normal, especially on the day of the game and the day after,” said Koeman. ”But there is no time to wallow because in my opinion we are on a good path and we have to prepare for the game tomorrow.” — AFP