Lionel Messi will miss Barcelona’s La Liga curtain-raiser against Athletic Bilbao this evening, with manager Ernesto Valverde unprepared to risk his star man after he picked a knock in training, via The Mirror.
The Catalans No.10 injured his calf before Barca’s brief pre-season tour of the United States, ruling out of the La Liga champions’ opening league fixture at the San Mamés Stadium.
Videos of Messi being put through his paces on sand emerged on social media earlier this week, but his manager revealed that he would not be including him in his matchday squad for the trip to Bilbao.
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Speaking to the media on Thursday, Valverde said: “We never like to risk any players and much less someone like Leo.”
“He still hasn’t returned to training with the team and while we are happy with his progress, individual training is very different to playing a match. We are going to wait and see.”
The 55-year-old also remained tight-lipped about rumours surrounding former winger Neymar, who has been heavily linked with a return to the Camp Nou after becoming unsettled at Paris Saint-Germain.
Valverde refused to answer questions about the Brazilian wide man, instead explaining his confusion over the Spanish transfer window not ending before the season begins, like it now does in England.
“It’s inconvenient and it’s not logical. The normal thing would be that the team you start with is the same one that will compete for the whole season,” he said.
“Now we have two weeks until the transfer window shuts and you can’t breathe easily until then. I’m very happy with the squad I have at the moment but I don’t know what will happen next.
“I am far removed from transfers and I’m focusing on the players I have for our first game,” he added.
“Neymar belongs to PSG and we’ll see what happens but I can’t say anything more about him.”
Resting Messi is a wise choice considering his importance to the team over the course of the season. Indeed, last time out he was the club’s top scorer, top assister, had the most shots per game and made the most passes per game, so risking him seems rather pointless for a single game.
Barcelona still have a great deal of attacking quality at their disposal in the form of Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele and summer signing Antoine Griezmann, so should still have enough about them to cope without the Argentinian superstar against Bilbao.
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