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Transfer Rater: Kroos to Man United


Concern over Barca's hectic pre-season

Lionel Messi has played down increasing disquiet over Barcelona's pre-season schedule, saying: "It is what it is."

Messi and his father both deny any wrongdoing
Messi has said the pre-season programme 'is what it is'.

Having made a "peace tour" to Israel and the West Bank last weekend, the Barcelona players flew to Bangkok for two days, playing a match against the Thailand national team, and then to Kuala Lumpur, where they will face a Malaysia XI on Saturday before returning to Barcelona on Sunday.

Meanwhile, players and coaches have been attending a series of events, including meeting the Thai royal family and regular press conferences, while also fitting in the daily training sessions intended to prepare for the new season.

The tightness of the schedule was highlighted on Thursday when a refuelling problem left the players' plane sitting on the runway in Bangkok for 90 minutes, affecting plans for the rest of the day.

Gerard Pique showed his frustration by tweeting from his Kuala Lumpur hotel: “Waking up from the siesta. Don't know either where you are or what time it is! Lost in translation.. #KualaLumpur”.



This followed a tweet from Wednesday which suggested that the schedule was affecting his sleep patterns.



In a sign that the club were aware of the issues, boss Gerardo Martino unexpectedly held Thursday's evening training session behind closed doors and then cancelled Friday morning's session to give his players time to either rest or go sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur.

Messi, who according to reporters present was visibly tired during Thursday's official club pre-training press conference, hinted that fitting training sessions around other non-football duties was not ideal.

“I do not know if this is the best way to prepare a pre-season or not, but it is what it is,” the Argentina captain said. "We are doing very good work. There are lots of events, lots of travel and we train when we can."

Questions have also been asked about the low standard of opposition Barcelona are facing. On Tuesday, when they strolled past the Thais 7-1, La Liga rivals Real Madrid had to work much harder to beat Chelsea 3-1 in the more testing International Champions Cup.

Messi said Barca nonetheless viewed each friendly as a serious opportunity to get their rhythm back ahead of the new season. "We are taking the games very seriously," he explained. "They give us rhythm and are good preparation."

Barca begin the new campaign at home to Levante on August 18 and play the Spanish Supercopa first leg at Atletico Madrid three days later.

Martino's preparation for these games will not be helped by next week's international friendlies, especially as his Spain contingent face two more long-haul flights as they take on Ecuador in Guayaquil on Wednesday.


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