Ronald Koeman’s assistant at Barcelona, Alfred Schreuder, has said that players openly instruct their teammates to foul Lionel Messi in order to stop him.
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen football played behind closed doors for a year now, which allows people inside stadiums to hear every word said on the pitch.
“Messi receives five or six blows in a game,” Schreuder told the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. “Without fans, you literally hear opponents say things to each other.
“When Leo receives the ball, you can hear them say ‘Foul! Bring him down!’ But that doesn’t work and they hit him in a way that is a yellow card in Spain, but would be a red in the Netherlands.”
Messi’s future is still undecided, but his loss at the Camp Nou would be felt for reasons beyond the obvious.
“This week we were working on a system in training that Gerard Pique hadn’t done with us,” Schreuder noted. “He had been injured for a long time.
“So I wanted to explain the idea of it to him, but Messi approached and said, ‘Alfred, it’s not necessary, I’ve already brought him up to speed’. That’s Messi.
“He sees everything, he understands everything, he watches everything.”
The midweek Copa del Rey comeback was a memorable one for Barcelona, even for their big-name stars who have achieved everything there is to achieve in the game.
“It was good to see how players like Messi, [Sergio] Busquets and Pique experienced it,” Schreuder said. “They’ve won everything, they’ve been through everything, but they were as happy as children.
“It shows the energy in the team. They’re having fun.
“Of course this isn’t the Barcelona of seven or eight years ago, but the team are moving forward.”