Barcelona - Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino has defended Lionel Messi from
criticism for his erratic play during three consecutive losses, while
acknowledging he wasn't "satisfied" with his own coaching performance.
the past two weeks, Barcelona has been eliminated from the Champions
League by Atletico Madrid, lost the Copa del Rey final to rival Real
Madrid, and fallen behind in third place in the league.
Martino dismissed media speculation that Messi's mini-dip in form might lead to his departure at the end of the season.
people are talking about Messi's future surprises us, I don't take
those comments seriously," Martino said Saturday. "A football player,
when he finds himself in these types of circumstances, focuses on the
game. Sometimes they can play better or worse, but since it is (Messi)
everything is overblown. His future must be in Barcelona until he stops
Martino is approaching the end of a tumultuous first
year of a two-year contract. It is widely expected that he will be fired
this summer, unless Barcelona can pull off an unlikely recovery to
overtake league leader Atletico and Madrid.
Martino accepted his
responsibility for the team's sudden decline, which will likely leave
the Catalans without a major trophy for the first time since the 2007-08
"I am not satisfied with my job done," the Argentine
said. "When you don't get results, you can't be satisfied. This team is
accustomed to winning and, leaving aside the Spanish Super Cup, to have
no chances in two competitions and almost none in the third means I can
take nothing positive from my performance."
Athletic Bilbao on Sunday needing to win to stay within four points of
Atletico as the season nears its end. It will be without the injured
Neymar, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique and Victor Valdes, while Sergio
Busquets is suspended.
Bilbao manager Ernesto Valverde has been rumored to be a possible replacement for Martino if he is let go.