Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova confirmed after his side’s 7-0 aggregate Champions League semi-final loss to Bayern Munich that star forward Lionel Messi was not injured but did not feature in the second leg for fear of getting injured.
Newly crowned Bundesliga champions Bayern prevailed 3-0 at the Nou Camp this evening to seal an emphatic 7-0 aggregate triumph over the Catalan club and set up an all-German Wembley final against Borussia Dortmund on May 25.
Leading 4-0 from the first leg, the Bavarians were similarly clinical in Catalunya with second-half goals from Arjen Robben, Gerard Pique – who put through his own net – and Thomas Muller sealing a one-sided win over a sorry Barca side for whom Messi was an unused substitute.
“Messi felt good against Athletic Bilbao (on Saturday), but in the final minutes of the game at San Mames he noticed a strange feeling,” Vilanova said of the four-time reigning world player of the year. “He’s not injured, but he felt he could pick up an injury.
“Yesterday he trained, and also today... but he did not feel well. He’s an explosive player and he could break. So, maybe he could not help the team.”
Vilanova, speaking at his post-match press conference, acknowledged the tie had been lost in Bavaria last Tuesday.
“To lose, that can pass, but to lose 3-0 at home and 7-0 overall... It is clear this is not the tie we wanted,” he said “If we had arrived at 100 hundred per cent, it could have been different. I believe the first leg weighed heavily on us. I do not want to recall how they got those goals.”
Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes acknowledged that the absence of Argentina forward Messi had had an effect but felt it should not detract from his side’s achievement.
He said on German television channel ZDF: “Messi’s (absence) surprised us and, even though it’s clear that we’ve had an excellent game, you need to accept that Barcelona are one thing with Messi another without Messi.
“If we look at the whole tie, we’ve won 7-0. That couldn’t be more clear and now we have to enjoy it.”
Barca president Sandro Rosell, who was quick to congratulate Bayern and accepted the Bundesliga champions had been “clearly the superior side”, backed coach Vilanova’s decision not to risk Messi with the tie out of reach.
“If the best player in the world isn’t on the pitch, it’s noticeable,” he said on www.fcbarcelona.cat.
“At any rate, I am very proud of all of the players, managers, members and fans. They proved that they know how to win and how to lose.
“If they (Barca management) decided that he shouldn’t play, it was a purely technical decision. Nothing else to say.”
Heynckes, meanwhile, played down speculation linking him with a return to Real Madrid following his side’s stunning success at the Nou Camp.
The 67-year-old, who will step down from his post in the summer to be replaced by former Barca boss Pep Guardiola, occupied the Bernabeu hotseat in 1997-98 and has been touted as a possible successor to Jose Mourinho should the Real boss depart in the summer.
But Heynckes insisted after this evening’s game that he has not had his head turned by the prospect of a second spell in the Spanish capital.
“I turn 68 on May 9,” he said. “I’ve spent 50 years in football as a player and coach and some day you have to think that’s enough.
“Madrid have not been in contact with me.
“Logically, my team this year has been playing at a world-class level and for that reason reporters speculate about my future, but it won’t influence my decision after June 1.”