Radomir Antic has told Goal that the little Argentine's lack of effort in the European exit to Atletico was due to him being fielded in a position that he dislikes
By Alberto Pinero
Former Barcelona coach Radomir Antic believes that Blaugrana superstar Lionel Messi deliberately stayed away from the action during the 1-0 Champions League defeat against Atletico Madrid due to his frustration at being played as a winger.
The Argentina international was heavily criticised after running just 6.8 kilometres as Barca crashed out of Europe and Antic has likened Messi's situation under Gerardo Martino to that of Rivaldo under Louis van Gaal during the 1999-2000 campaign.
Van Gaal insisted on playing the Brazilian on the left wing against his will - despite his preference to be deployed centrally - leading to a strained relationship between the two.
"Messi did not do much running because the coach told him to play as a winger. This was Messi's way of saying 'If you want me to play on the wing, I will do just that'," Antic told Goal.
"This situation is pretty similar to what happened between Van Gaal and Rivaldo. Van Gaal forced Rivaldo to play on the left and each time he got the ball, he just passed it back to Winston Bogarde.
"It is clear that Barcelona have a major problem. How are they going to accommodate Messi, Neymar and Andres Iniesta in one team?
"I don't think Messi will accept playing as a winger after everything he has done for Barcelona. He will say 'If you want me on the wing, I will play there, but whether I will get involved in the game is another thing...'"
Barcelona head into tomorrow's Copa del Rey final against Real Madrid in Valencia in something of a crisis after back to back defeats against Atletico and Granada saw them dumped out of the Champions League and facing an uphill struggle to retain La Liga.
Antic, who coached Barcelona in 2003 and also had three spells at Atletico and one at Real Madrid, then went on to voice his surprise at Cristian Tello's limited game-time this season after his fine performances last term.
"We are all talking about Messi, Neymar and Iniesta, but we forget one of the revelations of last season: Tello. He offers something that Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and the others don't have and brings a lot to the team.
"And then there's another problem and that's that good players don't always make up a good team. I think this is Barcelona's problem at the moment."