Barcelona Manager Defends Messi After Red Card Against Bilbao


Ronald Koeman empathised with Lionel Messi’s frustration after the superstar captain was sent off in Barcelona’s Supercopa de Espana final loss against Athletic Club.

Messi saw red for the first time in his illustrious club career as embattled La Liga giants Barca were upstaged 3-2 by Athletic after extra time in Seville on Sunday.

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After Athletic star Inaki Williams struck in the third minute of extra time, Messi swung at Asier Villalibre in an off-the-ball incident that was spotted by VAR and referee Jesus Gil Manzano brandished a red card.

Messi – who has been tipped to leave Camp Nou amid links with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain – is facing a lengthy suspension, but Barca head coach Koeman defended the 33-year-old.

“I can understand what Messi did,” Koeman said afterwards. “I don’t know how many times they fouled him, and it’s normal to react when they keep trying to foul you as a player who is looking to dribble with the ball, but I need to see it again properly.”

Messi, who was fouled eight times against Athletic, recovered from a minor injury to return to Barcelona’s line-up in his 753rd appearance for the Catalan club.

Leo, after so many years in the elite of football, knows perfectly if he is in condition or not,” Koeman said. “We spoke before, he said he was in condition to play the game, he has given his maximum and nothing else.”

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