Lionel Messi: Barcelona star picks out negative from Athletic Bilbao Copa del Rey win
Lionel Messi has admitted the absence of fans was the only negative from Barcelona’s Copa del Rey final win over Athletic Bilbao on Saturday night. The Catalan giants were far too strong as they picked up the trophy. And the Argentina international was delighted in the aftermath of the contest.
Barcelona took the lead against Bilbao through Antoine Griezmann in the 60th minute.
Frenkie de Jong then struck three minutes later, with Messi then scoring a brilliant brace to make the result safe.
It was a huge victory for Barcelona and, for their captain, is the first piece of silverware he’s lifted since being given the armband following the departure of Andres Iniesta.
And while Messi was happy, he did lament the absence of supporters.
“None of our families could be here and there were no fans so it was strange to celebrate the goals without them,” he told club media.
“It’s a shame that both sets of fans could not be here to enjoy it. I hope our supporters enjoyed it at home.”
On winning the trophy, he said: “It was extra special to lift a trophy as captain of a club I have been at since I was a kid.
“They made it hard for us defending deep and attacking us on the break but I think their physical level dropped a bit in the second half.”
Messi did admit Barcelona have endured a difficult season.
But he hailed the squad’s young players, insisting they’re giving the club a platform to build on for the future.
“This is a different season for us, one of transition,” said the Argentina international.
“We have a young squad and we have lost games at times because of a naivety and a lack of experience but we are still in the fight in the league.
“There’s a lot of joy to win a Copa del Rey that was difficult for us this season. It’s a great night and this squad deserves it.”
Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman was delighted as well, insisting they must now give everything to try and win the La Liga title.
They’re currently third in the standings, two points behind league leaders Atletico Madrid.
And he said: “We are very happy and we deserved to win at least one title this season and we will fight for La Liga until the last game.
“The club deserves it. It is a happy day for all Catalans.
“It is a deserved success. We have made changes to the team this year, but the players have delivered.”
Jordi Alba dedicated the win to Barcelona fans, with the Spain international saying: “The cup is for all the fans that could not be here today. We did not start the season well and not many people gave us much of a chance to win things.
“There are a lot of new players winning their first title and I’m pleased for them.”
On Messi himself, he claimed only his team-mate could decide on his future amid ongoing links to Manchester City and PSG.
“It’s his decision and he’ll take it when he wants,” he said.
“But this is the club of his life and he’s very happy here. I hope he stays but it’s his decision.”
Barcelona are next in action against Getafe on Thursday (9pm).
And they’ll be looking to avoid a repeat of what happened earlier in the season, with the minnows winning 1-0 in October courtesy of Jaime Mata’s second-half penalty.