Ronald Koeman is excited about what the future holds for Barcelona despite the departure of superstar forward Lionel Messi.
Messi is bringing an end to his 21-year association with Barca as the Catalan giants were unable to honour the new contract agreed with him due to LaLiga’s salary cap limit.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner became a free agent on July 1 and confirmed at an emotional news conference on Sunday that joining Paris Saint-Germain “is a possibility”.
Barcelona will head into the new campaign without Messi for the first time since 2003-04, but Koeman is remaining upbeat regarding his side’s prospects.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Joan Gamper Trophy match with Juventus at Estadi Johan Cruyff, the Dutchman said: “Despite Messi’s farewell, we are excited about this season.
“With the signings made and the youngsters, who are the future of this club, we have a great squad. We are convinced we will provide the fans with many joys this season.
“With some help and sacrifice we will achieve the maximum. We know what it means to be from Barcelona and what this club represents.”
Messi leaves a huge void for Barca to fill, the Argentina international having scored 672 goals in 778 games for the Catalans in all competitions, as well as providing 265 assists.
That amounts to 937 goal involvements during his Barca career, which began as a 17-year-old in 2004.
Among an array of other achievements and personal honours, Messi is LaLiga’s all-time top scorer with 474 goals and is the second-highest scorer ever in Europe’s top five leagues behind Cristiano Ronaldo (476).
Sergio Busquets, who takes over the captain’s armband permanently following Messi’s exit, paid his own tribute to his team-mate of 13 years.
“For me, it is an honour to be the captain of Barca, the best club in the world,” he said on the pitch ahead of the Juventus match.
“I have had great examples such as [Carles] Puyol, Xavi, Andres [Iniesta] and Leo. I will try to be up to the task.
“I want to make a special mention for Leo. Thank you for taking Barca to the top, making history, being the best in the world, breaking all individual and collective records.
“We will miss you a lot. Eternal thanks, Leo. Now a new season begins, full of emotion, and we will fight for all the objectives together with you [the fans]. We need you more than ever.”
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