Life without Messi begins? Ronald Koeman takes his first training session as Barcelona manager with talisman absent as he tries to force a move through to Manchester City
- Ronald Koeman took his first training session as the new manager of Barcelona
- Pique was pictured dribbling with a ball as Dembele jogged in a light session
- Talisman Lionel Messi remained absent from Barca’s second day of pre-season
- The Argentine is trying to force a move from LaLiga giants after feud with club
After the sacking of Quique Setien, Koeman was appointed as the Catalan club’s new boss and took no time at all to ruffle a few feathers within the camp.
As talisman and club legend Messi was absent, the Dutchman was pictured alongside his squad in their first session together ahead of the new LaLiga season.
Ronald Koeman took his first training session as the new manager of Barcelona on Monday
Defender Gerard Pique was pictured dribbling with a football in the Spanish sun
Elsewhere, winger Ousmane Dembele was pictured jogging in a light training session
The Barcelona players were pictured taking part in some basic running drills, with winger Ousmane Demebele pictured jogging in the club’s new training kit.
Elsewhere, Gerard Pique was shown with a ball at his feet as he dribbled at a light pace in the Spanish sun.
However, Messi’s absence was the main talking point as he stayed away from Barcelona training for a second-straight day on Monday as he kept up his strategy to force a move to Manchester City.
So far Barcelona have not announced financial penalties for their striking captain although rules would allow them to suspend him without pay if and when he fails to show for Tuesday’s session.
An agreement between LaLiga clubs and the Spanish players’ union stipulates that a player who misses three days of training can be suspended without pay and lose up to 25 per cent of his monthly salary.
The final decision over punishments is left with individual clubs however, and Barcelona appear unlikely to announce any action before a meeting between Messi’s father Jorge and club president Josep Bartomeu expected later this week.
Lionel Messi has been absent from Barcelona’s first two days of pre-season as he forces exit
Ivan Rakitic also missed training ahead of a move to Sevilla. But Luis Suarez, who has been given a free transfer by the club but is yet to agree compensation for his final year, was present at Ronald Koeman’s first session.
Meanwhile, City’s landmark pursuit of Messi will not impact on completing other transfer business this window.
Sportsmail understands Pep Guardiola wants an additional two signings – as well as Messi – before October 5, neither of which are affected by whether City land the Argentine or not.
A new right-sided central defender, to join as part of a first-choice pairing alongside Aymeric Laporte, is considered a top priority.
Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly is a target and, at 29, comfortably outside of the usual age bracket in which City trade.
Manchester City are said to be leading the race for Messi but must pay £630m release fee
But there is a realisation that centre half is an area they need to upgrade after refusing to part with £80million for Harry Maguire last summer. City sources have stressed that Koulibaly is not the club’s only option. Napoli are likely to demand upwards of £65m for the Senegal international.
Guardiola preferred Eric Garcia over John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi as City crashed out of the Champions League – even after the teenager had expressed a desire to leave.
Garcia could yet be used as a makeweight in a deal to purchase Messi, while Stones wants to remain and fight for his place at the Etihad Stadium.
Otamendi’s future hinges on whether any interested parties can afford his salary. It will make for a busy and convoluted few weeks at City, who also have their eye on another signing.
Guardiola was said to be travelling back to the North West on Monday ahead of a fortnight in self-isolation following his close season trip to Barcelona. A number of players not on international duty are returning to training, while City’s Premier League campaign does not start until an away game at Wolves on September 21.