While Lionel Messi says Barcelona’s players are their own biggest critics, Gerardo Martino has suggested that recent attacks had stung his side into action for Wednesday’s 2-1 Champions League last-16 second-leg win over Manchester City.
Blaugrana fans and pundits had been scathing in their assessments of the players after Saturday’s 1-0 Primera Division defeat at Valladolid, the latest in a string of limp performances which has seen the Camp Nou outfit slip four points behind leaders Real Madrid.
Such sluggishness was nowhere to be seen at the Camp Nou on Wednesday, with Messi leading from the front with an intense display capped with the opening goal of the game midway through the second half as Barca went through 4-1 on aggregate to the quarterfinals of the competition.
The Argentina international told Canal Plus after the game that he had no opinion on what external negative voices might say, but that he and his teammates were always the first to analyse their own bad performances.
"I do not know if the criticism was exaggerated or not," Messi said. "We are our own first critics, we lost an important change to keep up at the top of the league.
"I do not want to say that La Liga is lost because there is a long way to go. We are away from the criticism. We must listen to ourselves and turn this around."
Asked at his postmatch news conference if Messi and his teammates had been keen to prove a point in the game, Martino did not answer directly, but suggested that had indeed been the case.
"These players have a lot of pride and lots of success on top of that," RTVE reports the Argentine coach as saying.
"Sometimes doubting them, depending how, can provoke a reaction. If I had to advise those who do not want Barcelona to do well, I would tell them to go easy on them, because criticism motivates them."
Barca right-back Dani Alves, who fired in his second goal of the tie late on to add a gloss to the scoreline, denied [just about] that his subsequent celebration had been aimed at fans who had not backed the team enough in recent times.
"I did not want to reproach anybody," Alves told AS. "I am transparent when they do not support us, and that was not the case today. Today we all rowed in the same direction.
"When it does not go well, it is normal that the critics come out, and when we do well they applaud us. Lots and lots of things are talked about. But we are united and together we are much stronger, unbeatable.
"It is still clear we are Barca, and we must defend this to the death. We will defend this jersey until the last day with dignity."