‘Neymar isn’t to replace Messi’

Tata Martino has urged Neymar and Alexis Sanchez to play as themselves in Lionel Messi’s absence, rather than try to replace him for Barcelona.

The Catalans host Real Valladolid this Saturday evening without their Argentine talisman, after a thigh injury picked up last weekend.

Heading into Week 8, it was put to Martino that Neymar is ready to take Messi’s place in the centre of attack.

“He is very young, but he is used to carrying the burden for he is a player with exceptional talent,” considered Martino today.

“Rather than thinking he is a player to carry the load, though, everyone has to behave in concordance with their potential, to be authentic and offer the best of their ability.

“He does not have to bear the responsibility of replacing Messi. To disguise one as another does not interest me.

“There are possibilities to use him as a centre-forward, we will see tomorrow or at another moment. We know that with the injury to Leo, it is between him, Cesc and Alexis to look for the best solution in every game.

“And Alexis? He catches my attention, when he does not have good games, he endures the criticism and when he does well, as in the other day, he is left aside.

“The same explanation with Neymar applies to the rest of the players. He has to play as Alexis Sanchez and thus give us his best.

“We are very happy with what he has to offer. It is noteworthy that when decisive in games he has not been highlighted much.”

Whilst injured, both Messi and Javier Mascherano have still been listed in Argentina’s squad for next week’s upcoming internationals.

“They have an injury. The Argentine team doctors will assess them and resolve what is best. Neither is it certain that they will want to travel in any condition.

“As for the Spanish players, we will try to make a projection of what they can play. Surely many of them will play most of the minutes and so we will take this into consideration.”

Martino reflected on Barca’s weekend opponents Valladolid.

“The importance of this game is the same that we have for all the game we play and more so to endorse what we have done at Celtic, where the team must show no step backward in its play. Valladolid represent the difficulty that all teams have with the intention of winning the game.

“The 10pm local time kick-off? I do not think that we have to interpret what a correct time to play is, because we are not ones that participate in it being set.

“It is not natural to play at 12 noon or 11pm at night, but that is the case, we play and there are no excuses.”

Tags Alexis Martino Messi Neymar Sanchez