Barcelona boss Luis Enrique says he has no concerns about Lionel Messi’s state of mind following a turbulent few weeks.
The 29-year-old was given a €2million fine and a prison sentence of 21 months – though this can be served on probation – after being found guilty of tax fraud in a Spanish court this month, though he has always denied any wrongdoing.
Messi had caused a storm shortly after the Copa America Centenario final, when he announced he would be retiring from international football following Argentina’s defeat to Chile – their third major final loss in as many years.
Luis Enrique, however, expects Messi to be as focused as ever in Barca’s pre-season training.
“He looks the same as always,” he said on Thursday. “He had a long holiday because of the Copa America, but I have no doubt he’ll come into pre-season as always.
“His habitat is the football pitch, with his team-mates around him. He plays for the club and the shirt.
“I’m not really worried about his situation. I think they could have won the Copa America, but at times in football you do things very well but sometimes you don’t win. But he looks the same as in previous pre-seasons.
“I don’t think the legal matter affects him. There are always issues, you have to minimise them and try to solve things in the best way possible.”
Argentina fans have championed a campaign to convince Messi to change his mind about quitting international football, but Luis Enrique would not be drawn on whether he expects it to happen.
“Time will tell if he continues with Argentina,” he said. “As Barca coach, I’m open to any possibility. As a fan of football, I hope for the best.”
Messi’s compatriot Javier Mascherano has been linked with a possible move away from Camp Nou, with Juventus – who have already signed Dani Alves – rumoured to be considering a bid.
But Luis Enrique is confident that Mascherano will agree to a new contract at Barca.
“I hope the club and Mascherano seal the renewal,” he added. “There are negotiations right now. He’s such a key player and we hope he can continue with us.”