Tata Martino has dismissed talk of issues with Lionel Messi after substituting him and says he will continue to rotate the players for Barcelona’s benefit.
The Argentine has notably rotated his squad in the early weeks of the season and has more than once brought Messi off before the full-time whistle.
Whilst the player seemed unhappy with being withdrawn with 10 minutes of Tuesday evening’s 4-1 win over Real Sociedad, his Coach says there is no issue and his policy won’t be changing.
“I see him as very well. I have no disagreements with him nor comparisons with other seasons, this is the first that I am working with him,” mused Martino to reporters today.
“Against Rayo he did not score but for me it was his best performance. As Leo does not like being changed nor does Neymar, Xavi, Cesc and Iniesta.
“But I was hired to make decisions that relate to the health of the team and the players over the season, so that they are all fit at the decisive stage of the season.
“I’m going to do that and I am aware that no-one likes to be taken off, I reflect that and understand.
“Traditionally it happens with any player, but we are managing the minutes with a view to everything, we cannot divert our attention if we want the full squad in the final stretch.”
Martino was asked how he will manage Neymar, who has just been selected once more in the latest Brazil squad.
“Since August he is the player, bar Victor Valdes, to have played the most minutes in the team and he has been called up for two friendlies.
“If he maintains his current line of recent games with Brazil, he will play a lot. I understand that and must protect him and take care.
“At some stage he will have to rest because I do not want him to be exhausted by the end of the season.
“He has played eight games in 28 days and that’s a lot for anyone, if you are 30, 28 or 21.”
Barca travel out to Almeria this weekend looking to set a new club record for a start to a La Liga season.
“Almeria will earn many points by the end of the season. They have destabilising players in attack and on the wings.
“All of our opponents are at a level where we have to stay alert. So long as we play to our own game, our chances of winning increase.
“If we win seven from seven and do not win the League then it is not worth much. It is just a statistic.
“What is most important is what happens in May next year.”
The 50-year-old was asked for his view on the refereeing controversy that surrounding the final stages of Real Madrid’s win at Elche in midweek.
“The first thing I think of is the loneliness of referees in making decisions. They can be right, they can be wrong, decisions will favour some, others will favour others…it seems very unfair to talk about them and I would only contribute to throwing them to the lions. I do not want to contribute to this situation.”
Martino saw Carles Puyol take part in a practice match this week, just as Javier Mascherano was ruled out with a thigh injury. Before the captain is cleared to play, though, Marc Bartra may be in contention to play alongside Gerard Pique.
“I want to emphasise his character, his desire, his momentum to succeed at Barcelona. That sometimes can play against him.
“He is young, he will earn tranquillity and I am sure that we will see the best of him in the coming years.”