LaLiga: Barcelona manager reveals why Messi has been in pain since Christmas

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Valverde told his club's official website: "They were defensive and didn't give us much space and it was hard to get through them".

"I wanted to distance myself from the team, let time go by and cool myself".

Messi, speaking on an Argentine radio station on Friday, added that he constantly replays Argentina's 2014 World Cup final defeat in his head, but has vowed that a recent worldwide sabbatical was a one-off and he has no plans to retire in the near future. "Excluding him and me, the best players in the world are [Kylian] Mbappe, Neymar, [Eden] Hazard, Suarez and [Sergio] Aguero".

His brace also saw Messi reach the 40-goal mark for a tenth consecutive season, which is actually a bit insane when you think about it. "It's nonsense. It hurts me that people lie".

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"(Argentina coach Lionel) Scaloni knows that and that's why he decided I shouldn't travel (to Morocco), that the rest would be good for me".

Messi suffered a groin injury on his return to action with Argentina last week, although he played 90 minutes in the encounter with Venezuela.

"He is so important for us and he had a great game", Busquets said.

He said he is determined to win a major trophy for the Albiceleste, having lost the finals of the 2014 World Cup and the Copa America in 2015 and 2016. "Family, friends. My 6-year-old (asked me) 'Why do they kill you in Argentina, daddy?'"

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But the Barca captain was named in Ernesto Valverde's starting XI on Saturday and scored both goals as the league leaders took another step towards the title.

Football fans, pundits and players have for a longtime been embroiled in the debate on who is the best footballer between Ronaldo and Messi, with opinion often divided on who is better.

Approaching the twilight of his career, Messi added that if he does not rule out ending his career with his hometown club, the Newell Old Boys.

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