Sport

Messi’s enthusiasm is riding Barcelona squad – Alba

Lionel Messi’s enthusiasm is contagious as La Liga leaders Barcelona prepare to return following the coronavirus pandemic, according to team-mate Jordi Alba.

Suspended in March due to the Covid-19 crisis, La Liga will get back underway with a derby clash between Sevilla and Real Betis on June 11.

Barca, who were two points clear of bitter rivals Real Madrid through 27 rounds at the time of postponement, will return with a trip to Real Mallorca on June 13.

Captain and six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi has provided plenty of motivation ahead of the league’s resumption, with left-back Alba telling TVE: “He’s a vital player of us and we should enjoy having him all the time.

“Seeing Leo with the enthusiasm he’s come back with is contagious for the rest of the group.”

Messi had topped La Liga’s goalscoring charts with 19, ahead of Madrid forward Karim Benzema (14).

“I see the team as having a lot of enthusiasm,” Spain international Alba added.

“Mentally and physically we players have come back really well I would say, even better than we were before.”

Meanwhile, defending champions Barca continue to be linked with former star Neymar – who left Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain in a world-record €222 million (£198m/$247m) transfer in 2017.

On a possible return, Alba said: “He’s clearly a unique player and he gave us a lot. He chose and looked for other goals.”

Blaugrana coach Quique Setien had admitted he would like to coach Neymar, and is hoping that his side can find a way to bring in their former star, even if it could prove financially difficult amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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“I’d love to be able to coach him someday as he is a top-class player. To be honest, I’ve fulfilled a dream in coaching (Lionel) Messi, but I’d be absolutely delighted if Neymar joined us,” Setien told beIN SPORTS last month

Setien may have to wait at least a year if he is to coach the Brazilian, as Goal has reported that Neymar will not be joining up with his former side this summer due a lack of funds available at Barca.

The club is still looking to bring in Inter star Lautaro Martinez, with the Catalans reportedly looking to include multiple players in a swap deal to reduce the Argentine’s price.

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