Lionel Messi ‘Didn’t Turn Up’ as Barcelona Exit Prompts Ernesto Valverde Apology

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Lionel Messi has been criticised in the wake of Barcelona’s shock 3-0 defeat at the hands of Roma on Tuesday, while Barca manager Ernesto Valverde and president Josep Maria Bartomeu have apologised to supporters.
The Giallorossi produced an outstanding performance at the Stadio Olimpico to overturn a 4-1 deficit from the first leg, ensuring the Blaugrana’s exit at the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Champions League for the third season running.
Barca’s players have come in for a great deal of criticism for their showing in Rome, and Messi is no exception.
AS‘ Juan Jimenez described the Argentinian as being “anonymous” and said he had “gone out there to watch the time go by,” concluding that he “simply didn’t turn up.”

Messi and Luis Suarez were also singled out by BT Sport pundit Michael Owen, who believed they did not do enough to help out defensively.

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“I’m not sure you can not concede when you’ve got two strikers that don’t put anything into defending,” he said, per MailOnline’s Robert Summerscales. “They are basically defending with eight outfield players against 11, and I’m not sure you can do that at the highest level.”
Neither of the pair had a night to remember in a match in which a single Barcelona goal would have all-but guaranteed their progression, and with Radja Nainggolan, Daniele De Rossi and Kevin Strootman often overwhelming the visitors’ midfield, the extra bodies could have lightened their team-mates’ load.
Jimenez’s criticism of Messi is perhaps a little unfair, though, as he was involved throughout—according to Summerscales he had 61 touches of the ball, just six fewer than the commanding De Rossi managed, per Squawka Football—and frequently had to drop deeper to create for the team with Andres Iniesta struggling to do so himself.
Grup 14’s Rafael Hernandez believes the Argentinian was let down by his team-mates, a sentiment echoed by ESPN FC’s Dermot Corrigan:
Rafael Hernández @RafaelH117 The only thing holding back Lionel Messi is Barcelona. Unbelievable.
Dermot Corrigan @dermotmcorrigan Point about Messi not scoring whenever Barca go out of CL not that he never does it on big occasion – more that if he doesnt step up then nobody else has.
Barcelona’s decline in recent years has often been masked by their impressive ability to continue to pick up silverware each season—something Messi should take plenty of credit for—but they’re perhaps no longer the force they once were on the pitch and rely too heavily on their talisman.

Their failure to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League since their win in 2015 demonstrates as much, and prompted apologies from both Bartomeu and Valverde.
Per Sport‘s Victor Vallespir, the former said it was a “sad day” for the club and added: “The message is that we’re sorry for all Barca fans around the world.”
According to Ivan San Antonio of the same outlet, Valverde had a similar message: “We’re sorry for them, for the disappointment.”
The coach also lay the failure at his own feet: “Absolutely. The coach is the one who has to take responsibility. [The coach] chooses the team, the changes, he plans the game, the season. So I am absolutely responsible for everything.”
ESPN’s David Cartlidge also believed Valverde made mistakes in his approach:
David Cartlidge @davidjaca Think Valverde is a magnificent coach and sacking him would be absurd, but he’s got caught in the headlights tonight. Had a panic. Or as it is sometimes known, an Emery, and resorted to negativity/caution over taking initiative.
He has done an excellent job overall at the Camp Nou; his side—despite being far from a vintage outfit—are in the Copa del Rey final and are seven matches away from going the season unbeaten in La Liga, which they’re set to win comfortably.
His lack of top-level experience showed on Tuesday, though, and the team’s European hopes will therefore have to be put on hold for another year at least.

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April 11, 2018 at 01:12AM

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