Lionel Messi only played 17 minutes, but he still scored two goals and helped Barcelona win 5-2 against a K-League XI.
Yesterday, Pep Guardiola had made it pretty clear that Messi wasn't going to play, since he had only been in one training session after a month of vacation and would run the risk of getting injured.
However, he was forced to reconsider. In Barcelona's agreement with the South Korean hosts, there was clause stating that Barcelona would receive a £200,000 penalty if the Argentinian superstar didn't play at least 30 minutes. Besides, after they learned Messi wouldn't play, several fans demanded ticket refunds, which forced Guardiola to guarantee, right before the match, that Messi would play.
And so he did.
Messi came off the bench after 28 minutes and scored two goals, two excellent goals. As should be expected, Messi didn't appear after halftime.
It was apparent to everyone that Messi had only played to ensure tickets sales weren't affected and to avoid the aforementioned £200,000 penalty (he only played 17 minutes, but I'm assuming Barcelona reached an agreement with the hosts prior to the match in order to avoid the fine).
“I need to think of my players and after one training session, he could not have played more,” said Guardiola.
As far as I'm concerned, "forcing" Messi to play was a clear lack of respect from the South Koreans. True, Messi scored two goals, to the delight of the fans. But he could have been seriously injured. It's unbelievable to think that our South Korean hosts actually allowed (and almost demanded) such a risk to be taken.
If there's a lesson to be taken from all this, it is that Barcelona should never visit South Korea again. Forcing Messi to play was just the tip of the iceberg, since Korean fans never showed Barcelona the respect they deserve.
Next year, a different preseason destination is definitely in order.