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Koeman talks Messi interview, Dembele fitness and January exits

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The latest from the Barcelona boss

Real Valladolid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Ronald Koeman spoke to reporters on Monday ahead of Barcelona’s clash with Eibar in La Liga at the Camp Nou tomorrow.

The game is Barca’s last match of a rollercoaster year and they will have to make do without Lionel Messi due to an anke problem.

Koeman spoke about his captain’s fitness, and his recent interview, and also offered his thoughts on Tuesday’s opponents, Pedri and players potentially leaving in January.

Here are the best bits:

Koeman on Eibar

They are a very competitive team. They try to create pressure and go on the counter. We have to play well, like we did in our last game. We have to be able to find space when the opposition creates pressure. If we don’t play well it will be a very difficult match.

Koeman on Messi

He was a bit banged up, his ankle, and that’s why he hasn’t trained. He’s not ready to play tomorrow’s match. That’s why we gave him two extra days off. He’ll be back after the Eibar match. The doctor said a week without training would make him fit to return after the match.

Koeman on Messi interview

I have not seen the interview. I didn’t see it live. It came out today in the media and I think it’s great that he gives an interview to exhibit his opinions. It’s OK that he says he wants to decide his future at the end of the season. What we need to do is to get the best out of Leo in the matches and try to convince him to continue. He’s important to the club and we’ll see what happens.

Koeman on Messi praise

I don’t know if it makes me more calm but I’m thankful for him saying that. Any person likes it when they say good things about you. I’m still the same manager. I’m trying to get the team to perform well. It’s a transition year, there are a lot of changes, and he’s still a very important piece. If we can improve through the season I think we should be happy.

Koeman on Pochettino persuading Messi to join PSG?

No I can’t talk about that topic. I’ve seen some stuff in the press. The fact we face each other two months from now, I don’t think is an influence. I don’t think Messi deciding his future depends on a certain manager or a certain country. These are decisions you must take with your family. I don’t think a manager can influence a player’s destination.

Koeman on Dembele

The squad list we will give tomorrow after the session. He’s been training with the team for the last few days. He was training well before Real Valladolid so in principle yes he will be in the squad tomorrow.

Koeman on 3-5-2

You can talk a lot about a system but I think the most important thing is the energy, the hard work of the players. Any system could be used to attack but another system can be used to defend so it depends on the attitude of the team. I think it depends on the players you have and the moment of the match which system you use. It also depends on who we are playing against. I think my players are capable of doing different things.

Koeman on Messi absence

Not having Messi is an important loss because of his quality and his effectiveness in attack, we are losing a great player. But it’s not a system for him, he’s part of a system and we have enough players to play in his position and I hope that we are as effective as we have been when Leo has played.

Koeman on Pedri

From what I’ve seen up to now, his personality and his character, I think he is an example of someone who is doing well, especially for his age and at a club as big as this. My staff and I are helping him and supporting him, giving him advice and playing time. But I think Pedri is a kid from a humble family, he knows what he has to do to improve and what he has to do to avoid thinking he has it all figured out. He has a great future but that only exists if you keep on working hard.

Koeman on players leaving after elections?

It’s about being ready, being prepared. If there’s something that we like or if there is an opportunity for a youngster to play half a year at another club we’ll talk about that. Each player makes a decision but we will offer advice. We have to be ready and I hope one week will be enough to make those decisions.