Lionel Messi has been rested for Barcelona’s Champions League trip to Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday, head coach Ronald Koeman has confirmed.
Messi attempted to activate a disputed clause to leave Barcelona for free over the summer, but eventually decided to stay in order to avoid a legal battle with the club.
Last week the Argentine responded to criticism of his level of control at Barcelona from team-mate Antoine Griezmann’s former agent Eric Olhats, by saying that he was “tired of always being the problem for everything at the club”.
However, Koeman, who was appointed Barcelona boss in August, insists Messi’s absence, along with midfielder Frenkie de Jong, is routine, with the club having made a strong start to their Champions League campaign.
“We’ve got various players out due to injuries and we’ve decided that we won’t be taking Leo or Frankie because the situation in the Champions League is quite comfortable for us with the nine points that we’ve got,” Koeman said on Monday.
“And these two players need to rest because they’ve played a lot of matches. So we think this is a good moment to rest them.”
Despite their strong European form, Barcelona are struggling domestically, with one win in their last six La Liga matches leaving them 12th in the table and 11 points behind leaders Real Sociedad, albeit with two games in hand.
Barca’s struggles deepened during Saturday’s loss to Atletico Madrid when defenders Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto suffered significant injuries, with former Manchester United centre-back Pique leaving the field in tears.
The club confirmed after the game that Pique had sprained the internal lateral ligament in his right knee as well as sustaining a partial injury to the anterior crucial ligament, while Roberto ruptured a muscle in his thigh.
Barcelona go into Tuesday’s match against Dynamo three points clear of Juventus at the top of Group G, with just one more win required to book their place in the knockout stages.