Tata Martino has explained a desire to rest Lionel Messi where possible and enthused at Barcelona’s demolition of Levante in Week 1.
The Blaugrana ran out 7-0 winners at the Camp Nou thanks in majority to a strong first-half showing against Joaquin Caparros’ men that saw them go in at the break 6-0 up.
Midway through the second half, scorer of two goals Messi was notably brought off, in a move that his Coach has revealed was an intention agreed from the summer.
“We must rest him in games. He is very intelligent and we agreed very quickly together on this direction,” explained Martino to reporters.
“The season is long and this way he can rest if he doesn’t play every minute in a couple of matches.
“Agreeing on substitutions beforehand is a complicated matter. No-one would ever take Messi out of a match if the teams are evenly matched. If this game had been close, I would not have taken him out.
“But it can be done in matches where we take a big advantage, this way he can preserve his fitness.
“Pressure starting with Messi in attack? When Messi starts it, our opponents see that he’s trying to win possession back.
“Hopefully he can do this on a regular basis and that his teammates follow him.”
Notably, Messi only played around 10 minutes on the pitch with Neymar, who was used as a second half substitute.
“Everyone wants to see Neymar and Messi play together. But that would hurt the player. I want him to adapt to the team quickly, but I don’t want to force anything.
“We will see his best form in short order. This is how I see it and it’s my decision.”
Barca recorded their 7-0 win thanks to Messi’s double, two from Pedro Rodriguez and single goals from Alexis Sanchez, Dani Alves and Xavi Hernandez.
“The concepts that we addressed with the players – which aren’t new, they’ve just been archived – were brought back.
“Our interior-playing midfielders went deep, we switched up direct play with build-up play, these are good signs despite the fact that this just started.
“One of the aspects we’ve insisted on the most is pressure. I’m very satisfied.”
Even so, the Coach sees that there is room to improve.
“We can be more intense. We can prolong our pressure and we can continue to look for alternatives when we go forward. We need to play on the inside, on the outside, the right and left backs need to come forward, the interior players need to crash the area.
“It’s very premature to make an overall analysis after only 90 minutes. We have to play more matches in order to truly see how we are doing.”
Martino commented on fitness playing an important part this season too.
“I have been very clear with all the players in this regard. I told them that we will not succeed if we aren’t in peak condition.
“We cannot arrive to the end of the season and only be able to field 11 healthy players. My commitment is to make logical rotations, and these decisions may or may not please everyone.”