Lionel Messi admits he has had little contact with Antoine Griezmann since the Frenchman arrived at Barcelona and is looking for Ousmane Dembele to be “more professional” in 2019-20.
The reigning Liga champions have added to their collection of World Cup winners with Griezmann having joined fellow countrymen Dembele and Samuel Umtiti in Catalunya.
Reports in Spain suggested that a few members of the Barca squad were opposed to the 28-year-old being signed from Atletico Madrid as Barca also chased Neymar’s signature.
Messi was among those said to have been left frustrated by the France international’s reluctance to join in 2018, and the five-time Ballon d’Or winner admits he is still not fully acquainted with the new arrival at Camp Nou.
The Argentine superstar, who is nursing a calf injury, told Spanish publication Sport when asked if he has spent much time with Griezmann: “Very little to be honest.
“Since I returned, I’ve been injured and training on my own. I’m not really in the group.
“They went on the tour and when they came back we saw each other a little in the dressing room. But I’ve not been there in the training sessions. We’ll have the opportunity to share many things.”
Griezmann has opened his goal account for Barca in Messi’s absence, with Ernesto Valverde looking to others for inspiration as his captain works his way back to fitness.
Dembele is another of those being challenged to raise his game, with more expected of the 22-year-old after two testing seasons and a summer of transfer talk which saw him mooted as a possible makeweight in a bid to bring Neymar back to Camp Nou .
Messi said of the winger, who has seen his attitude questioned in the past: “I believe he’s an impressive talent who can do whatever he wants. He is very young and I think this year will be very important for him to make the step up that the whole of the Barcelona fan base wants to see.
“He needs to make that change to be more professional, to put that idea into his head, so he can be a success at Barcelona like he wants to be. I hope he doesn’t have the bad luck he’s had with injuries.
“Last year, when we needed him the most, he was injured. Hopefully that doesn’t happen this year and he’s able to show everything he has, which is a lot. As a player, he’s very impressive.”
If Dembele is unable to raise his game, then he would not be the first to flop at Barca, with only six of the 21 signings made since 2014-15 still on the Blaugrana’s books.
Quizzed on why that is the case, Messi said: “Because it’s very difficult to play for Barcelona. It’s the biggest club in the world and everything that comes with it is tough. The supporters, the groups, the media coverage…
“It isn’t easy to come in and step out onto the Camp Nou pitch. It doesn’t matter for some and others feel it immediately. When someone has a strong mentality and is confident, everything works out.
“But not everyone is the same. Some people aren’t able to adapt to these things in the same way. It isn’t easy to play for Barcelona.”