Football: Stress of playing with Lionel Messi too much for some, says ex-Barca assistant

Messi and teammates look dejected after Cristiano Ronaldo scores for Juventus in a Champions League Group G match. PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (REUTERS) - Former Barca assistant coach Juan Carlos Unzue has said that some players are not capable of handling the strain of playing with the club's talisman Lionel Messi.

Unzue, who was assistant to Luis Enrique between 2014 and 2017 at the Camp Nou, said the standards demanded by the Argentine are too much for some team mates.

"What has kept Messi (where he is) is ambition and how to live with moments of stress," he told YouTube channel Idolos.

"He self-demands to himself to keep being the best and, as a result, also wants the best around him, team mates, physio, or coach. That produces a great stress that some team mates are not capable of bearing."

Messi almost left Barca in the last transfer widnow amid speculation of a move to Manchester City and he is expected to leave the club when his contract expires in June.

The 53-year-old Unzue said the situation surprised him.

"The truth is it came as a shock to me that Messi wanted to leave but, knowing the club and Leo, I understand that he might have very, very important reasons for taking this decision.

"What I was convinced of was that if, in the end, he stayed, he'd give his best and maintain his ambitions.

"(Barcelona coach Ronald) Koeman is managing Messi and the group well, and the situation is not easy, although I think entering a big club that has won titles is harder when they've stopped winning.

"When we arrived with Luis Enrique we did so after a year the team had not won anything.

"That's happening to Koeman now, he's arriving at a messed-up time but if it's not a messed-up time, you don't get the call to become coach of Barcelona."

Barca are languishing in ninth place in La Liga, 12 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid after 10 games and six points behind arch rivals Real Madrid albeit with a game in hand.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.