BARCELONA

Koeman: "Messi is the greatest"

Barcelona's coach heaped praise on the Argentinean and his team: "I'd give him a 10 out of 10" and played down the current injury crisis.

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Koeman: "Messi is the greatest"
© MIGUEL RUIZ DIARIO AS

Ronald Koeman took questions from the media ahead of tomorrow's Copa del Rey semi-final first leg against Sevilla. The game kicks off at 21:00 hours at the Sánchez Pizjuán.

The objective is to get an away goal?

Looking at recent results, both Sevilla and ourselves have won our last few games. We nee to get a good result from the first leg. We know then well and they know us. I think it'll be a great game.

Another three players have succumbed to injury: Dest, Pjanic and Braithwaite...

Players have been left out because they are not physically fit. I'd rather take players who are fullt fit. Now isn't the moment to be taking more risks. We are short-staffed, we have a lot of players out injured, eight or nine, but there is always a solution to every problem.

De Jong could be an option in central defence?

If we put Frenkie at the back, we will lose something in midfield. If we can field a central defender, that would be the best option. 

You said that that it was a lack of respect for those in Paris to be talking about Leo Messi. Rudi García said the same about Memphis Depay. Do you consider that an attack?

I don't know why they do it. If they want to talk about Leo or about his future, let them talk. Now  Lyon's coach seems to enjoy appearing in the papers and wants to be front page news. Rudi García is not important to me. I have to prepare my team for the matches that remain; after that we'll see what happens.

Winning the Copa del Rey would make it a good year for Barcelona?

It is difficult to answer that and say what a good year for Barça would be. We aspire to win everything every year but we have had injury problems and it seems as though we are just surviving. I want to highlight the team's mentality and the character of the players. We lack competition in positions but we have quality. What we have been doing, considering the injuries we have and the travelling we have to do... I'd give the team 10 out of 10 at the moment.

Would you be happy to see Camp Nou used as one of the venues in the vaccination programme?

It's such an important issue that if we can help in any way, we will. I don't know what the new president will say about it, but I think that if we are able to do something, we should.

Is Umtiti fit to play tomorrow and against PSG?

Physically, Samuel is fine. He's in the list and will have options to play. If not, we wouldn't be taking him with us. With his history, we are always looking to see whether it's best to play him or save him for the next game. In many of the games he has played, he has shown his quality.

Does playing the first leg at home or away make any difference?

I prefer playing the second leg at home. Sevilla will demand the maximum from us in many aspects. These are exciting games to play.

Do you think that Messi is the greatest players of all-time? 

It's always difficult because we are talking about different eras in the game but what Messi has done is incredible. The number of goals he's scored, the trophies he's won... I didn't watch the Super Bowl because I don't watch much television. But Messi is the greatest in football. It's difficult to compare with players like Cruyff, Pelé and Maradona but from what I have seen of Messi during the last 15 years, he's the best.