Lionel Messi admitted in December he could soon retire but Barcelona’s frenzied attempts to make the most of his final years appear to be having the opposite effect.
As Athletic Bilbao’s players celebrated Inaki Williams’ 94th-minute winner at San Mames on Thursday night, Messi stood still in the centre circle, hands on his hips and staring down at the ground in front.
He had missed a chance to win it, his shot saved by Unai Simon, just moments before Williams’ flicked header crept inside the post to send Barca out of the Copa del Rey before the semi-finals for the first time in 10 years.
Messi has been the inspiration and saviour of this Barcelona team, his fingerprints on their string of La Liga titles more than anyone else’s.
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