Ajax boss Erik ten Hag has claimed that Barcelona star Lionel Messi has not reached the same level since Pep Guardiola left the club in 2012.
Guardiola became Barcelona manager in 2008 and led the team to major successes including 3 La Liga title wins, 2 Copa del Rey triumphs, and 2 UEFA Champions League triumphs.
Lionel Messi was phenomenal in those seasons, winning the Ballon d’Or in four consecutive years between 2009 and 2012. Messi scored 50 goals in 37 La Liga games in Guardiola’s final season in charge, precisely the 2011/12 season.
Since his departure, the Catalans have won the UCL just once in eight seasons with Messi emerging victoriously in the Ballon d’Or awards just twice in that period.
Ten Hag expressed the belief that the Argentine was more of a team player under Guardiola but has suffered a dip in performance levels under subsequent coaches in comparison to when he was under the Spaniard.
“Messi was one of the leaders, but he also worked for the team and excelled as a result. He has never been as good as under Guardiola,” Ten Hag told Voetbal International.
“Barcelona has not won much in European terms in recent years either.
“Messi still excels, but now also occasionally goes through the lower limit. It was never like that under Guardiola.
“Pep has guts, he dares to be pioneering and innovative.”
Guardiola left Barcelona for Bayern Munich where Ten Hag had the chance to work alongside him as he coached Bayern’s reserves.
The Dutchman left for Eredivisie outfit Utrecht in 2015 where he became head coach while Guardiola left the Bavarians for Manchester City in the following season.
Ten Hag has been a success at Ajax and saw them win the Eredivisie and reach the UCL semis in the 2018/19 campaign. He has been linked with a move to some of Europe’s elite clubs.