Barcelona forced to start pre-season without 17 players amid Lionel Messi strike

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Barcelona are in dire straits right now.

The 2019/20 season marked a new nadir in their gradual decline since the 2015 Champions League triumph, failing to collect a major trophy and crashing out of Europe in humiliating fashion.

Of course, we are indeed referring to the 8-2 humiliation against Bayern Munich, which rubbed salt into a wound that had already been opened by Real Madrid overcoming them for La Liga glory.

Trouble in paradise

Throw in Copa del Rey disappointment for good measure and it's easy to see why the atmosphere was so dreary at Camp Nou when the season concluded, but the trouble didn't end there.

That's because Lionel Messi sent seismic shocks through the Catalan club by declaring his desire to leave the club by submitting a formal transfer request by fax on Tuesday evening.

So, not only are Barcelona faced with having to rebuild after the most embarrassing result of their modern history, but they're standing up to the prospect of having to do so without their star man.

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Tough job for Koeman

The legal team at Camp Nou are set to fight their claim that Messi will have to see out the final year of his contract, though every outcome leads to the Argentine leaving at one point or another.

It's a pretty unenviable situation for new manager Ronald Koeman to have entered then, having barely been at Barcelona a few days before the Messi news broke to the world.

You've got to applaud the former Valencia manager for his bravery when you consider how harshly Ernesto Valverde was sacked and how badly Quique Setien struggled in the hot-seat.

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Barca without 17 players

Nevertheless, the Dutchman's mission to turn things around in Barcelona began in earnest on Monday, hosting his first training session before the La Liga season commences later this month.

However, he was forced to do so with barely any of his squad members to call upon, further adding to the feeling of farce surrounding the club right now with 17(!!!) players absent.

Well, that's according to Spanish newspaper Marca, who reported earlier this week that Koeman will be getting his tenure under way in the absence of a number of key players for various reasons.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen is recovering from knee surgery, Miralem Pjanic is self-isolating in Italy after testing positive for COVID-19 and Philippe Coutinho is still holidaying after winning the Champions League with Bayern.

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Long list of injuries

Meanwhile, the following cohort of players have linked up with their international teams either at senior or youth levels:

Frenkie de Jong, Sergio Busquets, Clement Lenglet, Antoine Griezmann, Francisco Trincao, Nelson Semedo, Martin Braithwaite, Ansu Fati, Inaki Pena, Riqui Puig, Juan Miranda, Carles Alena and Pedri.

Then, of course, there is Messi himself who is effectively on strike after backing his team's belief that he is effectively a free agent and therefore is under no obligation to resume Barcelona training.

It's also doubtful whether Luis Suarez, Rafinha, Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal will be regular attendees during pre-season with all four players set to leave the club this summer. 

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Training commences regardless

With so few players able to attend the Sant Joan Despi training ground for Koeman's first week, the manager will be force to promote a number of youngsters from the academy to make do.

You get the feeling that Koeman has bought a new house that was already on fire and only time will tell whether he'll be able to extinguish the flames before nothing is left.

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