Koeman: Di Maria’s Messi to PSG talk ‘disrespectful’

Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has accused Paris Saint-Germain winger Angel Di Maria of being disrespectful for saying he hopes Argentina team-mate Lionel Messi will join the French club.

Messi is out of contract at the Nou Camp at the end of the season and questions remain over whether he will stay or move elsewhere.

Barcelona face Paris Saint-Germain in a first-leg round-of-16 tie in the Champions League on February 16.

“Yes, yes, I hope so,” Di Maria said when asked whether Messi could join him in Paris. “There are many possibilities. We have to be calm and things will develop.”

On Di Maria’s comments, Koeman said: “It’s wrong to say such things, especially because it heats up our Champions League match even more.

“I think it’s not fair and it’s disrespectful to talk so much about one player who is still playing for Barcelona.

“I think it is disrespectful to talk so much about Leo while he is playing for Barcelona, especially before a Champions League match against them.”

Lionel Messi curled in a stunning free kick after 20 minutes for his milestone goal
Lionel Messi is out of contract at Barcelona in the summer

Barcelona are 10 points behind top-of-the-table Atletico Madrid in La Liga, while Messi played the full match in their 5-3 win over Granada in the Copa del Rey quarter-final on Wednesday.

Messi attempted to leave Barca last summer by exercising a clause in his contract that he believed entitled him to exit on a free transfer.

However, the club claimed the clause had expired and Messi reluctantly backed down after Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted he could only leave if a buyer paid his €700m (£618m) release clause.

Koeman urges Barca to sack anyone involved in Messi leak

Earlier this week, Koeman called on Barcelona to sack any employee that may have been responsible for leaking details of Messi’s contract to the press.

On Sunday, Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that Messi’s four-year contract, signed in 2017, was the most expensive ever awarded to an athlete, and stated it has “ruined” Barcelona by causing their current financial crisis.

El Mundo said the Argentine forward’s deal is worth €555m (£492m) and includes fixed incomes and extras that could reach nearly €138m (£122m) each year.

Barcelona have denied the leak came from the club’s board and have threatened legal action against El Mundo.

Lionel Messi helped guide Barcelona into the next round of the Copa del Rey
Ronald Koeman called on Barcelona to sack any employee that may have been responsible for leaking details of Lionel Messi’s contract to the press

Messi put the controversy to one side and scored his 650th goal for Barcelona in their 2-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, after which Koeman said: “I don’t understand how anyone could link Messi to Barca’s ruin.

“He has spent years proving his quality and doing great things for this club, helping it win many important trophies.

“Whoever published this had bad intentions and wanted to cause Barca damage. But we have to be united and focused, we have to forget about whatever has been published.

“Without Leo we couldn’t aspire to win very much. We have known for a very long time that he is the best player in the world, he has done so much for this club and is decisive. We have to respect everything Messi has done.

“If this was someone from the club they cannot have a future here.”

A statement from Barcelona on Sunday read: “FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document, and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication.

“FC Barcelona expresses its absolute support for Lionel Messi, especially in the face of any attempt to discredit his image, and to damage his relationship with the entity where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”