• Kyodo


Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi said Thursday he is pinning his hopes on a good start to the season under new manager Ernesto Valverde.

The Spanish powerhouse in May confirmed Valverde, who stepped down from his role in charge of Athletic Bilbao, as their new manager following Luis Enrique’s departure.

“With the new manager everything will become new. I don’t know what kind of manager he is, but he is a great person,” Messi said of Valverde, who led Bilbao to seventh place in La Liga and Europa League qualification.

Valverde, a Barcelona player in the late 1980s, has also managed Villarreal, Valencia and Barcelona’s city rival Espanyol, as well as Greek club Olympiacos.

“He was with Valencia and Bilbao and we are hearing a lot about his reputation. I am pinning my hopes on a new direction and hoping we can do our best,” Messi told a news conference to promote Barcelona’s tie-up with e-commerce giant Rakuten Inc.

“Whenever I start a new season there is a very clear-cut goal — that FC Barcelona will do its best.”

“Personally, I am very happy and looking forward to starting a new season. We have new coaches . . . and I want to work with them and enjoy FC Barcelona for one more year,” the newlywed Argentine striker said.

Barcelona won the Copa del Rey in Enrique’s final game in charge, but there was disappointment in La Liga and the Champions League, with both of those titles going to rival Real Madrid.

Thursday’s press conference was also attended by Brazilian forward Neymar, defender Gerard Pique and Turkish attacker Arda Turan.

Neymar’s goal for the season was also clear and simple.

“The objective is always to win, whether or not I score a goal. We are a team,” he said.

“If I can score goals, I will of course be happy, but with Pique and Messi, if all the other players score goals this is also good. If we win as a team I will be happy.”

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