Ernesto Valverde Explains Lionel Messi Benching for Juventus vs. Barcelona

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2017

TURIN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 22: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona  during the UEFA Champions League  match between Juventus v FC Barcelona at the Allianz Stadium on November 22, 2017 in Turin Italy (Photo by Jeroen Meuwsen/Soccrates/Getty Images)
Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has revealed why he left Lionel Messi on the bench for the 0-0 draw at Juventus in Group D of the 2017/18 UEFA Champions League on Wednesday night.               

Per AS (h/t Goal's Joe Wright), Valverde said his choice not to start the Argentina international was about giving the forward a rest: "He has built up a lot of games, and we thought this time he could come on for the second half."

Significantly, Moises Llorens of AS revealed Messi had agreed with Valverde's plan.

Barca's attacking talisman did enter the match in the second half when he replaced winger Gerard Deulofeu in the 56th minute. In the process, Messi drew level with another famous South American star in the annals of Europe's premier club competition, per Sky Sports Statto:

Messi may have entered the record books, but his late introduction couldn't prevent Barca from drawing a blank for the second straight game in the Champions League. Olympiakos held the Blaugrana to a 0-0 draw on Oct. 31.

Even so, Barca qualified for the last 16 after earning a point at the Allianz Stadium, meaning Valverde's decision to offer Messi a breather needn't be seen in a particularly harsh light.

Goal's Ben Hayward was among those who agreed with Valverde's call:

Hayward also praised the manager for having the courage to make such a contentious decision:

It makes sense for Valverde to proceed with an element of caution regarding his best player. Barcelona top La Liga by four points ahead of Valencia but face Los Che at the Mestalla Stadium on Sunday.

Barca have also lost fellow forward Ousmane Dembele to a lengthy injury absence this season. It means the onus is on Valverde to keep the rest of his star-studded forward line—Messi and striker Luis Suarez—fit as they pursue glory, both domestically and in the Champions League.