The Dutchman, however, was highly critical of a number of his senior players, and asked them to start stepping up to help the likes of Messi.
Ronald Koeman heaped praise on Messi after the Argentine scored two goals in Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Elche. Messi’s brace took him to 18 goals for the season in La Liga, making him the competition’s top goal-scorer.
The Dutch tactician sent a warning to his players, telling them to step up their game to help save Barcelona’s season. Many believed Koeman’s message was directed at Messi, but the former Everton boss revealed that he is delighted with the way the 33-year-old has been playing.
“When I spoke about the experienced players I was not talking about him. He keeps scoring lots of goals. It’s the other than have to start making a difference, not Messi. He is already making a difference and he did it again in this game,” said Koeman.
Ronald Koeman left Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele on the bench for his side’s clash with Elche. The decision, however, backfired as Barcelona endured a frustrating first half in which they lacked intensity, and failed to create clear-cut chances.
“Everyone could see that we lacked intensity in the rhythm in the first half. If it’s a good thing that as the captain Messi demands more intensity. I was disappointed with our play and the rhythm we were playing at. We were a bit slow. We were much better in the second half.”
Lionel Messi leads Barcelona to victory over Elche and keeps them in the La Liga title race
Barcelona’s latest victory was the perfect response to their abysmal performance against PSG in the Champions League last week. The Catalans were humiliated by their French opponents at the Camp Nou and are all but certain to be knocked out of Europe’s elite competition.
Their win over 3-0 Elche, however, thanks to two goals from Lionel Messi and a goal from Jordi Alba keeps them within reach of La Liga leaders, Atletico Madrid. Barcelona are just five points behind Atletico, having played a game more than Diego Simeone’s side.
Ronald Koeman will be hoping that the likes of Antoine Girezmann and Ousmane Dembele step up to the plate in the coming weeks, as they look to challenge for the La Liga title.