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Ronald Koeman defends decision to pitch Lionel Messi after historic red card

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Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman has defended his decision to play Lionel Messi in Sunday’s Spanish Supercopa final loss to Athletic Club, in which Messi landed the first red card of his club career.

The Argentine had been in doubt for the game after missing the semi with a hamstring injury, but he was surprisingly named in the starting lineup and played the entire 120 minutes, delivering a performance that looked like that of a player who wasn’t. t fully fit.

Lionel messi
Messi was clearly not 100% | David Ramos / Getty Images

Messi was far from the beat and allowed his frustrations to dissipate in downtime, hitting Asier Villalibre and seeing himself shown the first red card of his club career after VAR intervened, but Koeman insisted that it was the 33-year-old’s decision to play. .

“After so many years he knows when he’s fit to play and when he’s not,” Koeman said (via Marca). “He decided to play, nothing more. He was fine.

“I understand what happened. I don’t know how many mistakes he made. The player tries to dribble and cannot. Can I excuse him? I have to see the game first. ”

Koeman also declined to comment on referee Gil Manzano’s performance, adding: “I’d better not speak. It would be repeating things and I don’t like that. I’m not going to give an opinion. ”

Fortunately for Barcelona, ​​Manzano did not describe Messi’s foul as “aggressive” in his match report, instead saying that the Argentine used “excessive force”, a charge which resulted in a lighter penalty.

Messi is expected to miss just two more matches – the Copa del Rey third round against Cornella and the league encounter with Elche – when he could have been sidelined until 12 matches if he had been deemed aggressive.

Ronald koeman
Koeman will be without Messi for two games | Pool / Getty Images

The move will likely frustrate Villalibre, who claimed after the game that it was clear Messi intended to physically injure him.

“I put my body in his way to keep him from moving forward, he got angry, he put his hand on my face and I think it was a clear display of aggression,” he said. Athletic striker (via AS).

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