Lionel Messi scores twice as improved Barcelona beat Girona

Lionel Messi scored twice on Wednesday as Barcelona beat second-division Girona 3-1 in a preseason friendly.

Messi helped set up Philippe Coutinho, back from his loan at Bayern Munich, for the first goal after 21 minutes.

The Argentine scored his first after 45 minutes, spinning on the edge of the penalty area and drilling a shot in off the base of the far post. He scored his second, with a deflected shot, after 50 minutes.

He went off after an hour.

Messi only returned to training at the start of last week after saying he wanted to leave the club. 

Messi started Barcelona’s first friendly on Saturday, playing 45 minutes without scoring in a 3-1 victory over third-tier Gimnastica Tarragona.

Earlier on Wednesday, La Liga president Javier Tebas said he was pleased Messi had stayed at Barcelona.

“Messi is important for our competition,” said Tebas, at an event to promote the Liga sticker collection. “He is a player who was born in our competition … and hopefully he will finish his career in our league.

Barcelona used 20 players in Wednesday’s game at the club’s training centre but neither Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez nor Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal appeared.

Manager Ronald Koeman said after the game he had talked to Suarez and acknowledged Barcelona might not be able to sell him. 

Reports in Italy say a planned move to Juventus is off, and with so many clubs reeling from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, few could afford to pay his salary. 

“I’ve spoken to him about his future and we are waiting to see whether or not he leaves, we still don’t know,” said Koeman. “But we respect every contract here and if in the end he does not find a club and he stays, he will be just like any other player in the squad.” 

One player who looks certain to stay at Barca is Philippe Coutinho, who scored for the second game in a row since returning from his loan spell at Bayern Munich. 

“He is very motivated right now, he is training well and playing well,” Koeman said of the Brazilian, who has failed to live up to expectations since joining from Liverpool for a club record fee in 2018. 

Barcelona are due to start their league campaign on September 26 or 27 against Villarreal.

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