After seeing Barcelona’s Spanish league title defence come to a disappointing end, Lionel Messi didn’t hold back. He blasted his team for being ‘weak’ after Real Madrid wrested the league title away from Barcelona for the first time in three years.
Barcelona led the league by two points over Madrid when the league was stopped in mid-March for three months while Spain reined in its coronavirus outbreak. Madrid returned to the competition motivated and in shape, reeling off 10 straight wins. While Barcelona looked flat, drew three matches to lose the lead, and on Thursday hit a new low when it lost its first home match since November 2018. They suffered their sixth La Liga defeat of the season, humbled by Osasuna 2-1 at Camp Nou, with goals from Jose Arnaiz and Roberto Torres cancelling out a trademark Messi free-kick. The result leaves the Blaugrana seven points behind Madrid, who beat Villarreal 2-1 at Santiago Bernabeu to increase their advantage at the summit heading into the final round of fixtures. Messi aired his frustration in a post-match interview with Movistar +, expressing his belief that Barca made it far easy for their arch-rivals to dethrone them. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner also raised doubts over the team’s chances of winning their last 16 Champions League second leg tie against Napoli next month, which will be played in Lisbon with the aggregate score currently locked at 1-1.
Messi said, “We didn’t want to end the season like this but it represents how the season has gone. We were a very erratic, very weak, low-intensity team…We lost a lot of points and today’s game is a summary of the season. We have to be self-critical. Starting with the players but doing a global self-criticism. We are Barca and we have to win everything. We can’t look at Madrid… Madrid have done their job, but we have helped them a lot. If we want to win the Champions League, we have to change a lot. If we continue like this, we will lose the game against Napoli.” The Argentina international added on Barca’s dip in performance levels since the turn of the year: “We have to change lots of things. We have a game against Napoli just around the corner and things have to change. I think we’ll have a break now which will be good for us to clear the heads a bit. January until now has been such a terrible time for everybody. I think in the Champions League there are four matches where we could turn the whole season around if we get the right results. I think the people here at the club will feel angry about what’s been going on this season but that’s normal, the players feel like that too, its logical people will be critical. I think it’s like losing against Roma and Liverpool, when you don’t win anything no-one is happy.”
Messi will be determined to salvage something from this season with the Champions League still to come, but it has undoubtedly been a below-par year for the Spanish giants and his frustration says it all.