Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman defended his decision to star Lionel Messi in the Spanish Super Cup final on Sunday after the Argentine was sent off as Athletic Bilbao won 3-2 after extra time to win the trophy for the first time in his club career.
Messi had missed the semi-final victory over Real Sociedad on Wednesday through injury, but before the final Koeman said he would encourage the forward to make a fitness decision.
“I think after so many years at the top level, he knows when he can play and when he can’t,” Koeman told a news conference after the loss. “I spoke with him and he said he was fit enough to start the game.”
Early on, Messi was energetic and heavily involved in Barca’s opener, but he was exhausted and kept Bilbao out of the game as it wore on.
In the final minute of added time, his emotions got the best of him and reached boiling point as he struck Asier Villalibre and was fired after a VAR investigation.
“I can understand what Messi did,” Koeman said.
“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 is likely to face a four-game ban over La Liga and the Copa del Rey provided that the red card was shown for aggressive conduct.