Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino has emphasized the importance of keeping talisman Lionel Messi fit and fresh for the upcoming season, following the Argentine's two-goal performance in the team's opening La Liga game.
The coach was speaking after he took off the four-time Ballon d’Or winner and replaced him with Andres Iniesta midway through the second half of the Blaugrana’s emphatic 7-0 victory over Levante.
Messi barely missed a game last season until his hamstring injury in April and Martino is aware that not giving the Argentine a break could be harmful to Barca's chances of success this campaign.
“I discussed with Leo he needs to rest every now and then,” the former Paraguay coach told reporters.
“Of course, when the game is tight, not even the biggest fool subs him.
“The season is long, and there’s a difficult series of fixtures coming up. He’s very intelligent, he knows that.”
Another player who may not have received as much playing time as expected was summer capture Neymar.
The former Santos man only appeared off the bench for the final 25 minutes and picked up a yellow card in the process, but Martino insisted that the Brazilian needs time to settle.
"We have to give Neymar the time to adapt bit by bit,” explained the 50-year-old. “If we go too fast, we'll harm the player and the team."