Ernesto Valverde praised a not fully-fit Lionel Messi’s impact as Barcelona came from behind to beat Inter Milan 2-1 on Wednesday.
In what was his first 90-minute match of the season, Messi struggled to find his best form against Inter. However, a brilliant piece of skill allowed him to set-up Luis Suarez’s winner for Valverde and Barcelona.
It marked a welcome return for the Blaugrana skipper, who has struggled to regain full fitness since the summer.
After helping Argentina claim a third-place Copa America finish, Messi missed the start of the season due to a calf injury in training. Then, shortly after returning, he picked up an adductor problem against Villarreal last month.
“It is the first game that he played in full, also a game with a significant physical burden on the opponent and the competition,” Valverde told reporters during a post-match conference at Camp Nou.
“In any play, he can help you even when he is tired. Messi has not done a pre-season like the others, so he has to catch up.
“In the end, he made a fantastic play, but he was more tired than at the beginning.”
The Barcelona coach, meanwhile, also praised a resurgent Suarez after making it three goals in two games.
The 32-year-old’s difficult start to the season earned him criticism from both the Spanish press and even the club’s supporters.
But Suarez silenced his doubters by cancelling out Lautaro Martinez’s early opener for Inter before grabbing a late winner to register Barcelona’s first three points in their Group F Champions League campaign.
“Strikers live in the danger zone,” Valverde said on Suarez.
“They play in the most difficult area as they are always surrounded by defenders and need to solve the situations against the defenders they have onto them, so that is hard.
“Sometimes you cannot succeed, like one week ago, but then he scored once for La Liga and twice for Champions League. Luis has probed for a long time already what he is capable of, so he keeps doing so.”
Barcelona will return to Champions League action away to Slavia Prague in the Czech Republic on October 23.
Meanwhile, Valverde’s men will next play host to Sevilla at Camp Nou on Sunday in La Liga.