Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman has come to the defence of club captain Lionel Messi after the Argentine received a late red card in the Supercopa de Espana defeat against Athletic Bilbao.
Messi was given his marching orders right at the death following a VAR check. Replays showed that the six-time Ballon d’Or winner had struck Bilbao forward Asier Villalibre in the back of the head off the ball.
The superstar is now set to serve a suspension, which could range from two to four games depending on how the authorities view the incident. He will miss Thursday’s Copa del Rey fixture against Cornella and Sunday’s trip to Elche at the very least, with the following meetings against Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis also in jeopardy.
Barcelona currently sit in third place – seven points off the top having played two games more. Messi’s suspension will only make things more difficult for the Catalan giants.
However, manager Ronald Koeman has refused to blame his player, calling his reaction “normal”.
Speaking after the game, Koeman said (via ESPN): “I can understand what Messi did.
“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.”
Barcelona missed out on the chance to lift a first piece of silverware since 2019 after their extra time defeat against Athletic Bilbao.
La Blaugrana took the lead in the first half when Antoine Griezmann slammed home from inside the box, but were pegged back almost instantly from Oscar de Marcos’ close range finish.
Griezmann looked to have won it for his side when he turned home a second from Jordi Alba’s cross in the final 15 minutes, but Asier Villalibre netted a 90th minute equaliser to take it to extra time.
Inaki Williams was the hero for Los Leones, curling home a beauty in off the post to take the trophy. Messi was sent off in the 120th minute for lashing out at Villalibre.
It was another poor result for Koeman, who will be feeling the heat after a difficult opening few months on his return to the Camp Nou. If his side fails to progress past Cornella in mid-week, then his time in charge of Barcelona could be about to end.