Messi will be back to Barcelona with new energy - Luis Enrique
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique held his first news conference ahead of the new season
Barcelona manager Luis Enrique has said that he doesn't expect Lionel Messi to return to training with less enthusiasm despite the striker's decision to quit the Argentina national team following the Copa America loss.
The Blaugrana coach gave his first news conference for the preseason, addressing speculation that his star player might be affected by Argentina's summer struggles.
Messi announced he would not play for his country again after he missed a penalty during a shootout defeat to Chile in last month's Copa America Centenario defeat, in what was a third consecutive loss in a major international final.
The situation in Messi's home country was complicated by ongoing investigations into financial improprieties in the Argentina federation and the resignation of national coach Gerardo Martino.
"Messi will return as he always does, with great enthusiasm to play football," Luis Enrique said. "He has had a longer holiday this summer because of the [Copa America]. I have no doubt that he will return as he always does because what he likes most is football and his environment is on the field with his teammates.
"Wearing the Barcelona shirt again will refresh his desire to play. I have zero worries that it will be any other way," he said. "This summer he could have won the Copa America as he deserved, but in football, anything can happen.
The coach, now in his third season with the club, said only time will tell whether Messi will return to play with the Albiceleste.
"As coach of Barca, it doesn't affect us. It is not a great situation, but it means he won't be overtaxed," he said. "He made his comment at a difficult moment, only time will tell. It will be up to him to decide. I would like to continue to watch him [play for Argentina] from my perspective as a fan, but if I put my ego in it, I am open to any decision."
Luis Enrique refused to comment on Barcelona's controversial social media campaign #WeAreAllLeoMessi to support Messi after the 29-year-old was found guilty of tax fraud earlier this month.
"I was in Costa Rica and I am returning in a very happy mood," he said. "If I have to answer questions like this on the first day...."
Regarding the court's sentence, Luis Enrique said: "I don't know what the court said or anything about it. There are always hot topics, but as public figures, we should refrain from comment. I do not think this will affect Leo, but he can respond to that."
Barcelona returned to training on Thursday and Luis Suarez is expected to speak to the media after Friday's session.
Luis Enrique admitted that the club are in search of another forward and said that the fact that Barcelona youngsters Munir El-Haddadi and Sergi Samper have agreed new contracts at the Camp Nou does not mean Samper has guaranteed playing time.
"It's true that we are looking for a forward. We want that player to be motivated, with desire and to score. I want a pure striker, who arrives in the area and is capable of scoring goals," he said.
"There is always room for reinforcement. We want a forward but if there is a good option, we will sign one," he said. "Samper is on the first team but that doesn't mean his spot is guaranteed. We will be watching him and we will look for what is best for the team and some players. Last season and the first he helped us. He is a midfielder who can give us quality minutes and allow other key players to rest. He is 100 percent a Barca player and we will make a decision during the pre-season."
Luis Enrique also said he was surprised when Dani Alves left the club at the start of the summer.
"He is a unique player, special as we rarely see," he said. "He has a positive attitude, he is happy, excessively so sometimes, but he is 100 percent professional and we shall miss him. He gave his all to the club and in my two years he set an example. Juve will be in good shape with him. Last season we had to shuffle the deck when he renewed his deal at the last minute and that is why we had signed Aleix and we held back on Sergi Roberto. The position is more than well covered."
Finally, Luis Enrique said that if he ever left his coaching post one day, it would be because he felt tired.
"I will leave Barca when I no longer have energy," he said. "At the end of the season I will weigh up the conditions and if we have won titles. If I leave the team it will be due to a matter of energy."