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Why Did Barcelona Take So Long to Substitute Lionel Messi?

Ivan Rakitić rightly complained as Barcelona played too long with 10 men

FC Barcelona v Sevilla FC - La Liga Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Why did it take 10 minutes for Ousmane Dembélé to come on for Lionel Messi after the latter’s injury?

Messi landed awkwardly on his arm around the 16th minute, but the Frenchman didn’t come onto the pitch until the 26th, For that stretch of time, FC Barcelona played with 10 men, and couldn’t create attacking moves as they were wary of being caught out with not enough numbers back to defend their lead.

“In the future, we have to be prepared to make substitutions more quickly,” Ivan Rakitić said. “We have to be prepared before and make the change as soon as possible. Today we have played with one less player.”

He’s right. While it’s common to play with 10 men while a player receives treatment, with the expectation that he will continue, the circumstances of the injury are different. The pain was extremely intense, and it looked quite likely that allowing Messi to play more that day would have been foolish. The common-sense solution was to send Dembélé out to warm up, even if there was a chance Messi could continue. That’s because as soon as you decide that Messi cannot keep going, you have a replacement warmed up and ready to step in as soon as possible. If not, well, it’s an annoyance that you warmed up and didn’t come on, but no harm done.

According to Diario SPORT, it took Ernesto Valverde two minutes and 15 seconds to give orders to Dembélé to warm up, and then, Dembélé was not prepared for it. In the end, whoever was mostly at fault for the situation, the whole process ended up taking 10 minutes. Dembélé simply was not immediately ready to enter even as Messi was preparing to be led down the tunnel, with absolutely no doubt that he would not keep playing.

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