Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde says his side “couldn’t risk Lionel Messi” against Inter despite seeing him return to training ahead of a Champions League clash.
The mercurial Argentine suffered a broken arm during a La Liga meeting with Sevilla in mid-October.
He was expected to be sidelined for at least three weeks, keeping him out of crucial domestic and European fixtures.
Messi missed a 5-1 Clasico mauling of Real Madrid, narrow league and cup victories over Rayo Vallecano and Cultural Leonesa and was not expected to be involved in a trip to Milan.
He did put himself in contention by returning to the Barca fold and joining the travelling party heading to Italy, but Valverde told reporters of the decision to leave him in the stands: “We couldn’t risk Messi. Training isn’t the same as playing. We talked about it and he understood.”
Barca struggled for an attacking spark in the absence of their talismanic skipper, with Malcom grabbing his first goal for the club in what turned out to be a 1-1 draw on the road.
That result has been enough to book a last-16 berth, but Valverde admits there is still work to be done.
He said: “We’ll have to secure first place in the next two games.
“That was our first objective, but we go home happy. Malcom had great success and we’re very happy for him, of course.
“There was a moment in the first half when it seemed like the game could become end-to-end and possibly suffer.
“We have to read everything very well. We’re a team who play close together and find space.
“Problems can always flare up, but we played well and it was a game that had everything.
“The objective is always to pick up three points. We always want the ball and have control of the game.”
Former La Masia academy star Mauro Icardi netted Inter’s leveller at San Siro, with two heavyweight sides cancelling each other out.
It has been suggested that clashes such as that could become more commonplace in the future, but Valverde was reluctant to be drawn on speculation suggesting that a European Super League could be created at some stage.
He said: “I’m not aware of any plans for a European Super League, but the Champions League is a Super League.
“You could see it here. It was a great spectacle, like those that we played at Wembley or Camp Nou.”