Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino has emphasised the importance of keeping talisman Lionel Messi fit and fresh for the upcoming season.
The coach was speaking after he took off the four-time Ballon d’Or winner and replaced him with Andres Iniesta midway through the second half of the Blaugrana’s emphatic 7-0 victory over Levante in their opening weekend fixture.
Messi barely missed a game last season until his hamstring injury in April and Martino is aware that not given the Argentine, who scored a double against Levante, a break could be harmful to Barca’s chances of success this campaign.
“I discussed with Leo he needs to rest every now and then,” the former Paraguay coach told reporters.
“Of course, when the game is tight, not even the biggest fool subs him.
“The season is long, and there’s a difficult series of fixtures coming up. He’s very intelligent, he knows that.”
Another player who was not getting as much pitch time as Barca may have wished for was summer capture Neymar.
The former Santos man only appeared off the bench for the final 25 minutes and picked up a yellow card in the process, but Martino insisted that the Brazilian needs time to settle.
“We have to give Neymar the time to adapt bit by bit,” explained the 50-year-old. “If we go too fast, we’ll harm the player and the team.”
Martino was thrilled with how his players had responded after there were question marks over the preparation for the new season following an underwhelming display in Malaysia at the end of pre-season.
He said: “This start of the season is better than everything I could have imagined. Now we have to keep this level.”
“I love Barcelona’s philosophy, and I want the boys to recover some of the things they weren’t doing anymore.”
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