Barcelona boss Quique Setien says Lionel Messi must be assessed for more than just his contribution in front of goal as he nears another career milestone.
The Argentina great needs just two more goals to reach a combined 700 for club and country after registering in Barca’s 4-0 over Mallorca on Saturday, their first match since LaLiga returned following the suspension of top-flight football in Spain as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Messi has a chance to reach the next benchmark in his sensational career in Tuesday’s home clash with Leganes behind closed doors at Camp Nou.
Head coach Setien recognised the sensational achievement Messi – who played against Mallorca despite having sustained a knock in training – is about to reach but said the Barca skipper should be praised for far more than just his goals.
“Leo is fine. You don’t only have to assess the goals he scored, but also the rest of his contributions, like assisting. That gives us a lot of points,” he said.
“It’s an astronomical number. I think he’s reached 700 goals and that’s why he’s the best player in the world.”
Setien is pondering several selection dilemmas ahead of the contest as he looks to protect his squad from injuries given they have only just returned to action.
Antoine Griezmann started in attack against Mallorca, while Luis Suarez returned from injury off the bench.
With another fixture against Sevilla on Friday, Setien is yet to decide if either forward will start against Leganes.
“I have not decided if Luis Suarez will start tomorrow, I have to talk to him. We have to be very cautious, after long injuries muscle problems can start to appear. We must take care,” he added.
“Luis Suarez could be one of the players to rest tomorrow or at a later time. Luckily, we have more players. We have a team to adapt to the circumstances.
“Griezmann is indisputable, he is a great footballer, we continue to count on him, he will continue to play a leading role because he is important for the team and the club, but there are also other players that we have to use.”
The game will be Barca’s first played at home without spectators in attendance and Setien hopes the absence of fans will not hinder the leaders.
“We would rather play with the support of our fans tomorrow but we know it’s not possible and we have to adapt. Football loses its essence playing on empty fields,” he said.
“I hope we don’t lose intimidation because we don’t have our fans. The public factor would help us a lot, I hope it doesn’t hurt us too much now we won’t have them with us.”
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