BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi scored his first goals of Barcelona’s preseason as coach Ronald Koeman left Luis Suárez and Arturo Vidal off his team for a second friendly match.
Messi netted two goals and set up one more in a 3-1 victory over second-tier Girona on Wednesday, Barcelona’s second training match since Koeman took over as coach.
The goals were also Messi’s first since his failed attempt to leave the club this offseason, following a trophy-less season and the humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals. Messi told the club he wanted to leave, only to change his mind after Barcelona refused to allow him to go.
Barcelona posted a photo on Twitter of Messi and Koeman clasping hands when the star forward was substituted along with most of his teammates with half an hour to go. It seemed meant to deliver a message of unity between the player and manager amid one of the most tumultuous periods in the club’s recent history.
Barcelona is trying to find new homes for Suárez and Vidal, two players who at 33 years old do not fit into Koeman’s plans to rejuvenate the team.