FC Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has said the club must 'close the book' on Lionel Messi and focus on the upcoming season after the Argentine left the club earlier this summer.
Barcelona are set to begin a new era without Messi after the Catalan club announced 'financial and structural obstacles' prevented them from registering a new contract for the 34-year-old, who had been a free agent since his previous contract with the Blaugrana expired at the end of June.
Messi has since joined Paris Saint-Germain on a two-year contract, with option for another year, and Koeman says Barcelona must move forward, and that they must focus on the future of the club, and not on the developments that happened in the last few days.
"We have to understand that there is always an end for a player. You have to close the book because now we have to focus on this new season," Koeman told ESPN.
"We have new players in and we have to move forward, and we have time for that. We have young players in the squad this season, and it's also for the future, we are working on the future of this club, and it's really important to have our focus on this and not focus on what happened in the last few days."
Koeman revealed he was also surprised when he knew Messi would not be staying at Barcelona, and admitted it was 'difficult' to see him leave the club. "I knew there was a difficult situation between the club and Leo Messi and the league to have the possibilities to keep Messi in the club," Koeman added.
"It takes a long time, but I was also surprised by the day and the moment that I heard that he was finished playing for Barcelona. And I knew the financial situation of the club made it more difficult.
"I think it was difficult because we are not just talking about any player, we are talking about Leo Messi, the best player in the world through a lot of seasons and we were all disappointed that he will not play for us this season. But OK, you have to change fast because you don't stay in the disappointment with the new season starting. You have to understand it was for a few days a difficult situation. Messi meant so much for this club."
Koeman conceded Barcelona will have more difficulties scoring goals in the absence of Messi, but the Dutch tactician believes they still have a strong squad and hopes they will soon have Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati available for selection.
He said: "Of course we will have more difficulties to score goals. Messi scored 30 goals last season. So other players need to bring more and take the next step and it's more about the team now than individual players.
"It's not always one player, you have to do it together. Hopefully, we get players back from injury like Ansu Fati and Coutinho and then we still have a strong squad. We will work harder, we will do more to achieve what people expect from us.
"We are still in the transition. We have to understand that the start of this season is difficult. We still have COVID, for all the clubs, but still we have players with injuries so we cannot put all the players for playing because we are still missing good players. We did a good preseason, we have young players in, but if we get all the players back from injury the squad is still a strong one."