Koeman vows Messi is on board for Barca bid to rein in Madrid giants

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Ronald Koeman admits Barcelona cannot "settle for anything less" than first place in LaLiga and insisted Lionel Messi is up for the challenge.

A sloppy start to the campaign has left Barcelona with a great deal of ground to make up on the likes of Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid over the coming months, after losing four of their opening 14 league games.

However, by taking 10 points from a possible 12 over the course of their last four games, there is a hint of a meaningful revival from Koeman's team.

Even with the season disrupted by the pandemic, and with the distraction of club elections only likely to grow across the next month, Koeman knows there will be no viable excuse for failure.

"At a club like Barca you have to win things. I think our ultimate purpose is to win games and trophies. You get no prizes for finishing fourth, you need to be first," Koeman said.

"That’s the mentality that this team must have, we can't settle for anything less. We know that this is a season with a lot of changes, the club are in a difficult financial situation, with issues regarding the players' salaries.

"This is a very delicate situation for football clubs because of COVID. But Barcelona are still a team that need to win, with the awareness that changes need to be made, but still aspiring to the highest level and making the biggest demands."

They sit fifth for now, after a 3-0 win at Real Valladolid on Tuesday, where Messi added the finishing touch with his 644th goal for Barcelona – breaking the single-club goals record held by Pele for almost half a century after his feats with Santos.

Messi's commitment has been questioned in some quarters this season after his attempt to force an exit from the club before the campaign got under way.

But Koeman says the 33-year-old Argentinian is determined to be instrumental rather than peripheral.

"He trains hard every day. He's very engaged," Koeman told Barcelona's official website.

Koeman said Barcelona, like all teams, need "a certain amount of peace of mind in order to win things", and that may come after the elections to decide a new club president on January 24.

The Dutch coach, once a goal-scoring defender for Barcelona, was persuaded to leave the Netherlands national team job to take up his current Camp Nou role.

He accepted the offer because the Euro 2020 finals were postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 crisis, and the chance came in the wake of a health scare.

Koeman was admitted to hospital with chest pain in early May and now says that was a "small stroke".

Speaking about that worrying time, he said: "It does make you think about things differently. Perhaps managing Barca became a case of 'now or never'."


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