The Argentine has played in every single minute of Barcelona’s last 36 league matches, but was not named in the starting line-up this afternoon despite Barcelona’s recent poor domestic form.
Messi scored from the penalty spot in his side’s unconvincing midweek Champions League win over Dynamo Kiev, but was kept in reserve by Koeman whose side were looking to end a run of four matches without a victory in La Liga.
Koeman, instead, handed a rare start to Ousmane Demble and the France international rewarded his manager’s decision by opening the scoring in the 22nd minute with a rasping left-footed shot from just inside the penalty area.
Barcelona had the opportunity to extend the lead 11 minutes later, but Antoine Griezmann, taking over spot kick duties from Messi saw his effort from 12 yards saved by Claudio Bravo on his return to Camp Nou.
Antonio Sanabria tied the match before the break, which prompted Koeman to introduce Messi at the start of the second half and it took only four minutes for Barcelona to restore the lead with Griezmann atoning for his earlier miss.
Messi, meanwhile, was seen aimlessly walking around the pitch during the latter stages of the victory over Kiev with his team-mates attempting to protect a precarious one-goal advantage.
Koeman, however, launched a passionate defence of the club talisman and claimed the footage had been taken out of context.
‘I think Messi still has so many qualities. He’s very important in our game. He scored the penalty and we’re used to him making the difference here, and he’s still a very decisive player. You said [the footage was from] the 93rd minute – there are pictures of anyone, of me when I’m sitting down, or annoyed.
‘It seems we should be more aware of our image than our work. I don’t agree with that. I think these players, like those of my era, have the same effort as us. They work in training, they want to win and it annoys them when they don’t win. If it were not like this, it’d be because my work isn’t working.’