Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova has defended his decision to bring on Lionel Messi against Benfica despite the Argentine’s injury scare.
Messi was benched for tonight’s Champions League Group Stage finale at Camp Nou but came on with just over half an hour of the 0-0 draw to play and suffered a blow to the knee. Early reports are suggesting that it was nothing more than a knock.
It was put to Vilanova in his post-match Press conference whether he had brought Messi on purely for the sake of breaking Gerd Muller’s calendar year goals record.
“Muller’s record? Everyone but Messi talks about that,” the strategist retorted. “If he was focused on it he’d have played from the start.
“Messi playing 30 minutes was talked through, it was part of his physical training programme. You can also get injured in training. I gave him the last 30 minutes because it was a good workout and he loves competing. I would do it again.
“Messi was a bit worried, which is normal when you don’t know what it is. After the first tests by the doctors, he was calm.”
Turning to the game, Vilanova reflected on a slightly underwhelming performance by a makeshift Barca side consisting of youngsters and fringe players.
“We had to see how they reacted. You have to put these players in there, to see how they react at Camp Nou.”
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