Lionel Messi has defended Barcelona head coach Ernesto Valverde for the defeat against Liverpool, saying he and his team-mates deserve most of the blame.
Barcelona famously squandered a 3-0 first leg advantage at Anfield, falling 4-0 to the Reds in the return match of their Champions League semi-final.
It was the second straight year featuring a return leg collapse for the La Liga champions, after blowing another three-goal lead against Roma in the quarter-finals of the competition last season.
The result has put Valverde under pressure from fans and media, despite the coach having the potential to secure a second straight domestic double with victory in the Copa del Rey final over Valencia on Saturday.
But Messi believes that criticism is misplaced, and thinks the players are deserving of most of the blame for the defeat at Anfield.
“I think the coach has done an impressive job,” Messi told reporters. “I think in that elimination against Liverpool, he is practically blameless. We are the only ones to blame for that match.
“It was unfortunate the match we played, the image we left behind. That happened two years in a row, that we missed out on the Champions League final. The truth is what happened cannot be allowed. We were playing a final.
“He will be as guilty as everyone else in the locker room but the ones who [are most guilty] are us.”
Continuing, Messi believes the former Athletic Club coach should be given the chance to keep the Barca job, citing his impressive tenure outside of those two Champions League setbacks.
“I would like [Valverde] to continue,” Messi said. “You may like it or not, but as we play this year we can win another double. But this is a very big spot.
“In these two years, two games were lost. It is true that they tainted us but beyond that, the rest was good.”
However, Messi admitted the decision on Valverde’s future, or on what lays ahead for the club is not up to him.
Messi also suspects that defeat to Valencia on Saturday could cause further turmoil.
“I do not have to think about whether to make changes or not,” Messi said. “We are all disappointed and very much, but it’s not my turn to say [whether or not there will be changes].
“Not winning this final would be much worse than we are now, we have to finish well and think about that.”
Asked about whether he was left to think about the disappointment over the two Champions League defeats, Messi conceded it does haunt him.
“[I will think about it] for all that generated this year to be in the Champions League final and how close we were,” Messi said. “That’s why I think we were all in our heads in the Champions League and that’s why the disappointment was so great, repeating what happened in Rome.
“But it is true that getting another double is important. We’re going to feel weird because of what happened the other time.”