'What happened was inexcusable' - Lionel Messi still hurting after Champions League collapse at Anfield
Lionel Messi has admitted his sparkling season with Barcelona was ruined by his side's Champions League semi-final collapse against Liverpool at Anfield.
Barcelona looked set to seal their place in the final of Europe's elite competition after Messi inspired them to a 3-0 win in the first leg against Jurgen Klopp's Reds, before an injury-hit Liverpool side staged a remarkable comeback to record a 4-0 second leg win and seal their place in the final against Tottenham in Madrid next weekend.
Now Messi has offered his public reflections on Barcelona's demise, as he admitted a season that could end with a domestic double if his side beat Valencia in Saturday's Copa del Rey final has been tarnished by their shock defeat at Anfield.
"I had a great first season as captain, apart from the Liverpool game. Regrettably, that game has tainted the season," said Messi, in a rare appearance at a press conference.
"I haven't watched the game again, it was very similar to Roma where we went into the game and suddenly they scored. We reacted well, then they scored the second goal and we didn't compete, the worst thing is that we didn't compete. We let them walk all over us.
"We were all thinking about being champions and we were all very disappointed, first for the elimination, second for the manner, third for the fact it happened again.
"It was a very tough blow to take and it was tough to lift ourselves up, you could see that in the next few games.
"Now we have a final, a chance for a trophy, we have the chance to do a double and finish the year well, we have to win it like every final we play in."
Messi went on to offer a stout defence of Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde, as he suggested criticism of his boss for his failure to halt Liverpool's march was misplaced.
"I truly think our coach did an extraordinary job all this time he's been with us," added Messi. "I think he was practically blameless for what happened with Liverpool.
"We are solely responsible for what happened during that game. We knew that we couldn't repeat what had happened last season, and yet it happened again. We left a very sad impression and we played so badly.
"This is something that can happen once, but not twice and even less so consecutively. Missing the chance of playing a Champions League final, something we wished for so much - what happened was inexcusable.
"The coach may have his share of responsibility the same way everybody else, but I have no doubt that we, the players, are the main ones to be blamed."