Lionel Messi handles the ball in a preseason game for Barcelona against Girona, a second division team. (Joan Monfort)
Barcelona – Lionel Messi scored his first goals in Barcelona's preseason, with manager Ronald Koeman dispensing with Luis Suárez and Arturo Vidal for the second straight try.
Messi scored twice and managed the other goal for the Catalans to defeat Girona in the second division 3-1 on Wednesday. It was Barcelona's second preparation match since Koeman took over as coach.
They were also the Argentine star's first goals after his aborted intention to leave the club, precipitated by a deprived title season and culminating in a humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League. Messi asked to be transferred, but backed down when Barça did not agree to let him leave for free.
Messi and Koeman waved when the attacker was substituted, along with most of the starters, with half an hour left in the game. It was a sign of unity between player and manager amid the most tumultuous moments in the club's recent history.
“I am happy, I think we have made very good plays from behind and we have always generated situations of one more in the midfield,” said Koeman. “Up we have closed the attacks too much and we have to play more open.”
While Koeman shapes the starting eleven, Barcelona is looking for new destinations for forward Suárez and midfielder Vidal. Both 33-year-olds do not enter into the Dutch helmsman's plans to renew the squad.
The Spanish press assures that the Chilean Vidal has a foot in Inter Milan. But Juventus' interest in Uruguayan Suárez would have cooled in recent days.
Koeman left open the possibility that Suárez continues in the team.
Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi (left) shakes hands with coach Ronald Koeman in a friendly match against Girona. (Joan Monfort)
“If he ends up staying, he's going to be one of the squad,” Koeman said. I spoke to him this morning, we don't know yet if he is going or staying. “
Girona offered little resistance to the Barça attack, made up of newcomer Francisco Trincão, Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann and Messi.
A measured pass from Messi to Trincão opened the floodgates. The Portuguese striker gave the ball for Coutinho to push it to the back of the net at 20 minutes.
Messi increased to 45 when defining with a shot from outside the area.
Samuel Saiz discounted for Girona after the restart and Messi signed his double with a shot that was deflected by a defender to surprise the Girona goalkeeper.
Barcelona beat Gimnàstic de Tarragona 3-1 in their first friendly match last weekend.
Koeman will have another tryout against Elche on Saturday before La Liga debut against Villarreal on September 27.