Barcelona optimistic with Depay as wait for Messi continues

MADRID (AP) — Barcelona is seeing some positive signs from new signing Memphis Depay as it continues to wait for Lionel Messi.

Messi still hasn’t signed his contract extension but Depay has already shown he could be a big boost to the attack going into the new season.

The Netherlands international has clicked well with Antoine Griezmann in preseason and will likely be a key offensive weapon for coach Ronald Koeman.

“His connection with Antoine was good, he gives us a lot with his quality,” Koeman said after Barcelona defeated Stuttgart 3-0 in a preseason match Saturday. “He adds something different to the team with his game, his speed and his strength.”

Depay scored against Stuttgart and had also found the net in Barcelona’s 3-1 win over Girona in another preseason match.

The 27-year-old Depay had been wanted by Koeman for a long time and finally arrived on a transfer from Lyon after playing with the Netherlands in the European Championship. Koeman had known Depay well from the time he coached the Dutch national team in the past.

“People already know Memphis, he was with (Manchester) United and then a long time with Lyon,” he said. “He’s a goal scorer.”

Barcelona, whose only title last season came in the Copa del Rey, also boosted its attack with veteran Sergio Aguero from Manchester City. Also youngster Ansu Fati — who missed most of last season because of an injury — will be back, fighting for a starting spot along with Ousmane Dembélé and Martin Braithwaite.

Braithwaite reportedly could be on his way out after failing to establish himself as a regular starter last season, when Barcelona was without Luis Suárez after the Uruguay veteran transferred to eventual Spanish champion Atlético Madrid.

“There will be a lot of competition between players, that’s important,” Koeman said. “We will have Aguero and hopefully Leo will be back with us. We need quality up front to win matches. These players are important and they can make a difference in a match.”

Messi asked to leave Barcelona a year ago but was expected to sign a new five-year contract. He and the club have reached an agreement but the new deal was yet to be signed as the Argentina great remained on vacation. Messi was photographed in the Spanish island of Ibiza spending time on a boat with Suárez and other friends.

Barcelona had opened its preseason with a 4-0 win over Nastic. It will face Salzburg on Wednesday before playing Juventus at the Joan Gamper tournament at home. It debuts in the Spanish league on Aug. 15 against Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou Stadium.

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