At this point, Lionel Messi and Ronald Koeman might just have to bond over their shared misfortune.
Barcelona’s best player and his manager were already in ridiculous spots after club president Josep Maria Bartomeu hired the latter to begin a youth movement before refusing to honor the former’s declined contract option.
Messi tried to leave Barcelona earlier this summer but La Liga backed the club’s reading of his contract and the player was unwilling to expose his club to a court battle.
His influence and the club’s poor performances forced the president to step down with a bloated salary list leaving the club’s fortunes in turmoil.
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And now a team that’s on pace to allow as many goals per game as its worst mark in nearly two decades has lost two starters to long-term injury.
Gerard Pique sprained his ACL and his return time is uncertain, the club announced Sunday, while Sergi Roberto has a rupture in his thigh. He’s set to miss two months.
The injuries are just the latest setbacks for a Barcelona team which is still waiting for the return of Ronald Araujo and Sergio Busquets, hasn’t seen Samuel Umtiti in months, and won’t have Ansu Fati — the only player besides Messi to be named Man of the Match this season — until well into 2021.
There’s some silver lining for USMNT fans, as Sergino Dest will have every chance to get an extended run at fullback with Roberto out, and Konrad de la Fuente may find field time more available with Fati gone.
But Clement Llenget is the only true center back healthy until Araujo returns or Umtiti is recalled. Frenkie de Jong is the club’s long-term hope to run the midfield but may be needed between the full backs. It’s nuts, and there are going to be plenty of teams looking for center backs in the January window (let alone the price tags expected when Barcelona’s on the asking end).
Barca’s going to need an inspired Messi and some surprises from outside the usual suspects to contend for the top four this season, which shows the failings of the Bartomeu regime. It will also need a lot from Koeman, a hire many questioned to boot.