Will Ronald Koeman keep Lionel Messi as Barcelona captain?

Lionel Messi has held talks with Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman and now the Dutch coach must decide whether to strip the Argentine of the captain’s armband after dramatic transfer U-turn

  • Lionel Messi trained with Barcelona for the first time since his transfer U-turn
  • Last week, the Argentine announced that he would stay at the club this season
  • Manager Ronald Koeman now has a decision to make regarding the captaincy
  • Will the Dutch coach keep Messi as skipper or change to another senior player? 

Lionel Messi met Ronald Koeman face to face on Monday after his first training session of the season and according to Cuatro in Spain, he told his coach that he will be fully committed this season with the chance of him leaving the club now gone.

It will be Koeman’s move next as he decides who will wear the captain’s armband this season. Barcelona play their first game on September 27 and the skipper needs to be in place by then.

One option open to Koeman is to leave things as they were last season. The four club captains – Messi, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto – are all still at the club, so could all continue.

Lionel Messi returned to Barcelona training on Monday after his decision to stay at the club

New manager Ronald Koeman must decide what to do with the captain’s armband this season

Koeman could go his own way and pick his captain but that would whip up another storm, with Barcelona only just staggering out of the last one.

The alternative is to put it back to the dressing room. A player vote on who the four leaders should be would certainly be a way of gauging whether or not Messi’s relationship with his team-mates has been affected by this summer’s events. But it would also, like option two, make waves.

Messi could take matters into his own hands and decide that he wants to step down from the position. He would have the perfect excuse because part of the captain’s job is to be the link between the team and the board – at least that is the current state of affairs with no general manager employed to act as the bridge.

The Argentine has been Barca skipper since Andres Iniesta left the club two years ago

Wage-cut negotiations are now on the horizon. The club estimates losses of up to £90m (€100m) from last season and it will be more of the same without fans in the stadiums when things kick-off in the 2020-21 campaign.

Messi might want to step aside from more contact with Josep Bartomeu. It might also be another way of making it clear just what his problem is at the club. 

It could even strengthen the on-going collection of signatures towards the vote of no-confidence that is currently at around 7,500 – 9,000 short of the target needed by September 17 to collect the remaining number necessary to force a referendum.

Messi’s breakdown in relations with Josep Bartomeu could mean he relinquishes the armband

So far, Messi has shown no signs that he will give up the armband. It will be interesting to see who wears it this Saturday when Barcelona play Gimnastic de Tarragona in a friendly on Saturday. 

Messi is unlikely to play in that game having started training a week later than his team-mates, but there is no threat of him not starting the season for Barcelona against Villarreal two weeks later.

What was never in doubt is the goodwill of the supporters and important figures of the club getting behind him. ‘Happy Messi day, he is still defending the shirt of Barcelona’, tweeted Carles Puyol on Monday.

After he committed to Barca for the rest of the season, will Messi keep the club captaincy? 

Puyol is likely to be sporting director if election favourite Victor Font wins at the polls in March. As well as supporting an old friend, he will also have one eye on continuing to lay the foundations for how his relationship will be with Messi if and when he takes the reigns.

But before then, there are seven months to get through. Messi driving into training one and half hours early on Monday to report for duty is a positive start. The next big picture supporters want to see is him training happily with team-mates.

That will have to wait until the end of the week because of LaLiga’s coronavirus protocol. Yet Messi is back – that is the main thing as far as they are concerned.

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