Lionel Messi says football “will never be the same” as the Barcelona star discussed his impending return to action in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Spain’s La Liga resumes on June 11 after an enforced three-month absence.
As with other major leagues restarting in the likes of Germany, England and Italy, football in Spain will initially look very different to what has gone before.
Matches will be played on a daily basis behind closed doors as La Liga scrambles to complete the season, while precautionary health measures will be in place wherever possible.
Messi said all of that will make it a “strange” situation for footballers – just as with anyone affected in broader society.
“Football, like life in general, I think will never be the same,” Messi told El Pais, in comments also shared on the Barcelona website.
“The return to training, competitions and what was previously done in a normal way, now will have to be started again, but progressively.
“It will be a strange situation for us and for anyone who has to change their usual working dynamics.
“A lot of people have had a really bad time because this situation has affected them in some way, as happened to all those who lost their family and friends and couldn’t even barely say goodbye to them,” the Argentine star added.
When La Liga resumes Barcelona will find themselves top of the table by two points from main rivals Real Madrid, although Messi suggested that the return of football would not help ease the suffering of what has happened as a result of Covid-19.
“There can be nothing worse than losing the people you love the most, that creates enormous frustration for me and seems to me the most unfair thing of all,” the six-time Ballon d’Or winner said.
“[We’ll remember the pandemic] with a feeling of grief and frustration for those who suffered the most due to the loss of their loved ones. And also with infinite thanks to all the people who fought to fight the virus from health centers.”
Messi and Barcelona have suffered tumultuous times in recent months for reasons outside the coronavirus crisis.
The Nou Camp captain was involved in a public spat with sporting director and former teammate Eric Abidal over the sacking of manager Ernesto Valverde, before embarrassing accusations emerged that figures in the club hierarchy had run a social media campaign to tarnish the reputation of figures including Messi.
The club denied the claims, but Messi spoke out again when a deal was reached for players to cut pay due to the pandemic, accusing the board of handling the situation poorly.
The forward then suggested that Barca had no chance of winning the Champions League playing the way they have been under new manager Quique Setien – prompting the coach to assert that he would not change the way he sets his team up.