December 16, 2018, 6:19

Lionel Messi deserved more than fifth in Ballon d’Or – Ernesto Valverde

Lionel Messi deserved more than fifth in Ballon d’Or – Ernesto Valverde

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde says it was an “absurdity” that Lionel Messi finished fifth in this year’s voting for the Ballon d’Or.

Five-time winner Messi was out of the running this time around as Croatia and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric took top honours.

Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is set to be among a number of star names rested on Wednesday (Mike Egerton/PA)

Asked about Messi’s lowly placing ahead of Barcelona’s Copa del Rey last-32 second-leg clash at home to Cultural Leonesa on Wednesday, Valverde told www.marca.com: “I will not enter into discussions about the value of a prize or not.

“We congratulate Modric for the Ballon d’Or, but Messi in fifth place is an absurdity.”

Messi is set to be among a number of star names rested at the Camp Nou as Barcelona look to progress, having edged a 1-0 success in the first leg.

“It is good to point out that these games are difficult because you have things to lose,” Valverde added.

“It’s a meaningful match for Cultural, but they have dropped off a bit in their league.

“These are difficult games, but we hope to give our supporters a victory.”

Carles Alena, meanwhile, is set to take Rafinha’s place in the Barcelona squad after it was confirmed that the latter would be sidelined for six months due to injury.

And the game is Barcelona’s first since the death on Monday of former Barcelona president Josep Lluis Nunes, who celebrated huge success from 1978 to 2000.

“He sent me a letter congratulating me on the titles of last year,” Valverde said. “He never thought when he signed me as a player that I would end up being the future coach of Barcelona.

“We all appreciate what he has done for this club.”

Leonesa have not won in the Segunda Division B since losing the first leg more than a month ago, drawing four games before defeat to Salmantino last weekend.

Cultural Leonesa will be Barcelona’s opponents at Camp Nou on Wednesday (Dave Thompson/PA)

“We are responsible for what happened (on Sunday),” Leonesa manager Victor Cea told the club’s official website.

“We have to modify things, we are not satisfied with what happened, we have spoken with the players. I understand that people are very upset with us, we apologise.

“We have talked a lot, and we are going to fight to change the dynamics. We cannot be at peace with the games we are playing.

“Now, it’s time to compete in Copa, but the top priority is the league, where we need to give our best.”

Source: breakingnews.ie

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