Lionel Messi said that Bayern Munich's strength rather than his own lack of fitness was behind Barcelona's 4-0 hammering in Tuesday evening's Champions League semi-final first leg at the Allianz Arena.
Barca talisman Messi, making his first start since picking up a thigh injury in the quarter-final first leg at Paris Saint-Germain on April 2, was a peripheral figure throughout as Bayern steamrolled the Catalan side with a powerful and tactically astute display.
UEFA's official distance covered statistics released after the game showed that Messi (7,409m) had run more than three kilometres less than both Bayern wingers Arjen Robben (10,997m) and Franck Ribery (10,487m), but "La Pulga" told reporters in the mixed zone that he had felt physically okay out on the pitch.
"I had been out for a while without playing since the injury, but I felt fine," Messi said. "I could not do much about the result, it was a pity."
Thirty minutes from the bench when half-fit had been enough to turn April 10's second leg against PSG in Barca's favour. But Messi, who was declared fully recovered by the club's medical services on Tuesday afternoon, said the Bundesliga champions had been superior in all aspects of the game.
"They have shown they are stronger, they beat us in everything," Messi said. "You could see on the pitch that they were superior."
While anything can happen in football, the final at Wembley on May 25 now looked well beyond Barca's reach, Messi admitted.
"It will be a very difficult game at the Camp Nou, to come back from 4-0 down," he said. "But we must go for it and try and achieve it. They are good, but we will try. If we cannot do that then, well, we will have to think about next year."
Messi's resignation was echoed by other blaugrana players after the game, including Xavi Hernandez and Gerard Pique, with a feeling that they had been beaten by the better team and the tie was now already as good as over.
Assistant coach Jordi Roura told the post-match press conference that he had no excuses, and also took the time to commend the effort which Messi had made to recover in time to play the game, and then to play the entire 90 minutes.
"Leo put in an incredible effort to be here," Roura said. "He managed to play the 90 minutes and he did what he could. I am proud of how hard he worked to be here."