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'Why doesn't he win in Europe?' - Van Gaal blames Messi for Barcelona's Champions League failures

11:10 BST 24/06/2019
Lionel Messi Barcelona 2018-19
The former Blaugrana manager thinks that some of his successors have given the Argentina international too much freedom in recent years

Louis van Gaal has hit out at Lionel Messi, claiming the Barcelona talisman should be adapting himself to the team, and not the other way around.

The former Blaugrana boss thinks that the forward has too much freedom at Camp Nou, with recent Barca managers prioritising Messi’s individual talents over the team.

Despite winning the Liga title last season, the club fell short in the Champions League yet again, losing out to eventual winners Liverpool in the semi-final.

That means Messi remains on four European titles, with Barca having failed to reach the final since winning the competition in 2015.

And Van Gaal believes that the failure is down to one specific problem; Messi.

In an interview with El Pais , the ex-Manchester United manager explained that the Argentine is the reason behind Ernesto Valverde’s lack of success on the European stage.

“I believe that there is nothing more important than the team player,” said Van Gaal.

“Barca suffer from that. I think Messi should ask himself how it is possible that he’s gone so long without winning a Champions League.

“Look at Barcelona. How many Champions Leagues have they won with the one everybody says is the best player in the world? Look at Neymar at PSG. How many Champions Leagues has he won?

“He’s the best individual player in the world because his stats are amazing. But why hasn’t he won a Champions League for five years?

“As captain, you have to ask yourself why the team doesn’t win in Europe. I think that Messi is also responsible for what is happening at Barcelona, not just the coach.

“They have a squad of 30 players and I believe that Messi should adapt himself to the team, and not the other way around."

Van Gaal won back-to-back Liga titles in his first spell in charge of Barcelona in 1997, and later returned to the club in 2002, yet lasted just half a season after a poor run of form saw the side slip to 12th place in the league.

His first spell did, however, also have its difficulties, none more so than the public row with Rivaldo, with whom Van Gaal failed to form a positive relationship.

The former Dutch manager accused Rivaldo of prioritising his own fortunes over those of the team, and later released the Brazilian in his second spell in charge of the Catalan club despite the midfielder still having a year left on his contract.

Much like his current attitudes towards Messi, the 67-year-old expressed that he has always been a firm believer in team spirit, and argued that Pep Guardiola is the only Barcelona manager to have treated Messi in the right way.

“Guardiola made him play to the benefit of the team but the last few coaches have adapted too much to Messi instead of protecting team spirit. Team spirit is the most important thing.

“Messi adjusted to Guardiola’s plan, not the other way around.”