Lionel Messi has described the treatment of Barcelona fans towards Philippe Coutinho as “ugly” as he has urged them to support the team.
The Catalan giants secured a 3-0 win over Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final tie at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night, putting themselves in a great position to now advance to the final.
It wasn’t as straight-forward as the result would suggest though, as the visitors certainly enjoyed plenty of possession and great chances of their own.
However, as is often the case, the brilliance of Messi was the difference to almost take the tie away from Liverpool, who have it all to do at Anfield next week.
Despite the positive result though, Barcelona fans weren’t entirely happy during the game, as Coutinho was whistled off in the second half after a disappointing display, and Messi came out defending his teammate after the game.
“We’re at the defining stage of the season and we have to be more united than ever,” Messi is quoted as saying by ESPN. “I said that at the start of the season. It’s not the time to criticise anyone.
“We have to support each other and stick together for the rest of the season. It is ugly to treat a player like that when they’re taken off.”
Coutinho, 26, has had a difficult first full season at Barcelona, as the Brazilian international has managed just 11 goals and five assists in 51 appearances.
Much more was, and is, expected from him given his key role in the side, and so it’s understandable as to why there is frustration from fans being directed at him when he fails to deliver.
Nevertheless, Messi makes a great point as at such a crucial time of the campaign as they edge closer to a treble, the fans need to get behind the entire squad to urge them on to achieve such a difficult feat rather than sucking the confidence out of one of their main creative stars.