Philippe Coutinho was at a loss to explain why Barcelona have won just one of the last five Champions Leagues despite boasting five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi in their side.
Their disappointment on the European stage has been magnified by Real Madrid’s success. Los Blancos have won four of the last five Champions Leagues and the last three in a row.
“It’s difficult [to explain],” Coutinho said in a news conference when asked why a Barca side featuring Messi has fallen short in recent years. “He is the best player in the world, [the best] in the history of the game. It’s difficult to explain it.
“I don’t have the explanations. Messi, like all of us, is really motivated to win big things [this season] and the Champions League is one of them,” said the Brazilian, who will make his Champions League debut for Barcelona this week after he was rested for their league match after starting from the bench against Real Sociedad.
“Motivation to win the Champions League is always really high, for every team that takes part, because of the grandeur of the tournament. It has been a few years since Barca won it and this year the players, the club and all of the fans are really motivated to win it.”
Barca’s failings in Europe have hit Messi, who has helped the Catalans win the Champions League on four occasions during his career, particularly hard. The Argentine promised supporters in preseason that the players would do everything they could to bring the “highly-desired, beautiful trophy back to Camp Nou.”
Coach Ernesto Valverde said Messi and his teammates’ fascination with re-taking the European throne should not be viewed as a bad thing.
“No, the opposite,” he said when asked if the players’ Champions League obsession could create too much pressure. “I like their motivation for this competition, the extra motivation they have. It’s ideal.
“We would like to win this competition. But so do all the other clubs in it. It’s a different challenge [to La Liga], a shorter competition. You can’t mess up and even if you don’t you can still lose. It’s about competing in every game.”
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