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Martino, Messi deny spat after substitution

Barcelona coach Gerardo Martino explained he has to be careful not to tire Lionel Messi after he substituted the star against Real Sociedad.

Messi starred as Martino’s side eased to a 4-1 victory over Sociedad at Camp Nou and it did not take Barcelona long to take the lead as Neymar opened the scoring after just five minutes to notch his maiden La Liga goal.

The Brazilian was involved again three minutes later as he set Messi up for his seventh league goal of the season, while Sergio Busquets and Marc Bartra rounded off their win.

Alberto De La Bella’s 64th-minute strike for Sociedad was the only blemish on Barcelona’s performance and much post-match focus was centred on Messi, who appeared disappointed to be substituted.

Martino said: “Leo never wants to be subbed off, but it’s my task to take care of him. We need him at end of season.

“What we’re doing is rotating the squad. All that interests me is that everyone is enthusiastic about playing.

“My way of thinking won’t change, I repeated the whole time how I want to play, and maybe this game helps some to see things clearer.”

The Argentine reserved special praise for Neymar and Alexis Sanchez, both of whom played integral roles in attack with Messi.

Martino added: “Neymar is an exceptional player. It has surprised us how hard he wants to work for the team.

“Alexis didn’t score but he worked very hard today, both in defense and attack. He does things that few forwards do.”

It had been claimed that Messi made a gesture to Martino when he was taken off but the forward was clearly enraged about these comments and explained on his Facebook page that the claims were false.

“I didn’t make any gesture when Martino subbed me,” Messi said.

“Nobody likes to be go off but we must accept it as it’s the best for our team.

“I won’t accept that certain media tell lies about everything that happens with me.”

Tue 24 September, 2013
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