Barcelona ended their season with a 2-2 draw against Eibar in a match they could have easily lost, as the Basque side harried Ernesto Valverde’s team throughout.
It fell to Lionel Messi, who else, to rescue his team, as he cancelled out Eibar’s opener – scored by Marc Cucurella, on loan from Barcelona – and then gave his team the lead in a spell that saw him score twice in two minutes, only for Pablo de Blasis to equalise with a long-range stunner.
Here’s a look at how the Barca players rated.
Jasper Cillessen 4 – Made one outstanding save, but not enough to make up for his two errors. A weak attempted save saw Cucurella’s shot go in off his wrist, then his poor clearance allowed Pablo de Blasis to score wonderfully from distance.
Nelson Semedo 6 – Compromised his game with an poor challenge that earned him a yellow card, likely why he was taken off at half-time. But was solid in defence, otherwise.
Gerard Pique 7 – Pique was playing like a full-back at times, in intent if not actual position. His effort to get involved in attack was impressive, and he was Barcelona’s best man in defence as well.
Clement Lenglet 5 – A sloppy display from Lenglet, who struggled to handle Eibar’s press. Redeemed his display with a few excellent tackles.
Jordi Alba 6 – Eibar targeted his flank at times as they knew Alba would be upfield in attack – and he didn’t have an effective display on that side of the pitch, either.
Arturo Vidal 7 – A superb slide-rule pass to set up Messi’s first goal, along with his usual busy display in midfield, brought to an end an excellent – if it at times frustrating – first season at Barcelona for Vidal.
Sergio Busquets 6 – A display that summed up the player Busquets is at the moment. When given time on the ball, he remains one of the best conductors in world football. However, he struggled at times under the Eibar press.
Ivan Rakitic 7 – Rakitic’s work rate was astonishing. If this was his final game in a Barcelona shirt, it was a fitting way to sign off: the Croat covered every blade of grass, set up Messi for his second, and could even be seen winning crucial headers in his box.
Sergi Roberto 6 – Thrust into an unfamiliar role on the right of Barcelona’s attack
Lionel Messi 9 – Nearly ended the season with a hat-trick, blazing over in the second half when presented with the chance to score the winner. What had come before was typical Messi: two excellent runs; one ended with a simple finish and the other with a sublime dink over the keeper.
Malcom 5 – Squandered one excellent opportunity, caught in two minds as he was through on goal only to produce neither an accurate shot nor a simple square pass to Pique. Malcom’s display summed up in one moment.
Lionel Messi has scored 50 goals in all competitions this season 🐐 pic.twitter.com/c4nMd2QzAD— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 19, 2019
Moussa Wague 7 – An encouraging performance from Wague, who got into attack as often as would be expected of a Barcelona full-back but also produced crucial interventions in defence.
Carles Alena 6 – Composed passing in the middle of the park after coming on for Busquets. Nothing spectacular, but enough to make people wonder what he would do with a proper run in the side.
Carles Perez 6 – Came on late in the game for Malcom to make his Barcelona debut and was instantly involved in an attack, a good sign, as he played a few neat passes alongside Messi and Roberto.
Ahead of the Blaugrana’s final La Liga game of the season at Eibar on Sunday, Valverde was asked about the 28-year-old Frenchman, who revealed earlier this week that he will leave Atleti in the summer.
The Word Cup-winning forward was linked with a move to the Camp Nou last summer and was on the verge of joining before making a dramatic U-turn and staying in Madrid.
“We won’t say nothing new when we are talking about players from other teams. We will see (what happens). He is a great player. We’ve always said so,” said Valverde.
“It is true we have already made contacts. It is true that contacts are ongoing, but the season isn’t over yet. We have the Copa del Rey final still to play.
“We have the chance of winning two titles and winning two titles isn’t something usual both in this club nor in any other club. We must try to focus in this issue now (Copa del Rey final). And afterwards we will have time for everything else.”
The France forward has informed Atletico Madrid he wishes to leave at the end of the season.
Griezmann was heavily linked with a switch to Barcelona last summer, before opting to stay at the Wanda Metropolitano.
Following the announcement by the 28-year-old, speculation is again rife the La Liga champions will renew attempts to broker a deal, with the striker’s release clause said to be in the region of €120million.
Valverde, though, played down any suggestions the transfer was as good as done when facing the media ahead of Sunday’s final league match at Eibar.
“We’ve always said the same. He’s a player who is at another team, he’s a great player, we’ve always said that,” the Barcelona boss told a press conference as reported by the Spanish media.
Pressed on whether Griezmann would fit into his team, Valverde replied: “If in the end he comes to Barcelona, we will see, but we are talking about hypothetical situations, about a player who may or may not come in.
“I have already been asked about other types of hypothetical situations and I’ve not talked about it either.”
Barcelona are expected to strengthen over the summer, as the club aim to last the distance in Europe once again having fallen short in the Champions League, this season at the semi-final stage against Liverpool.
Valverde said: “I do not know the number of signings that there may or may not be, this goes for the club, I am part of it but there are other parties that have to express their opinion.
“We have to make the best possible team, taking into account the strengths that we have.”
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu maintains Valverde’s job is safe as they aim to complete back-to-back domestic doubles, despite their European disappointment.
Barca face Valencia in the Copa del Rey final on May 25 as they look to win the competition for an unprecedented fifth straight year.
On his own future, Valverde said: “We have already talked about all this, we know that when there is a defeat there is a lot of criticism for everyone, and then things get softer until the next game arrives.
“We have to focus on what we have to gain and not on what happened.”
Valverde added: “The season has been very good, that is the reality.
“Yes, it has been damaged by how we have fallen in the Champions League, but we have won a (Spanish) Super Cup, we have won La Liga with days in advance and we can win the Copa del Rey.”
Valverde hopes the game against Eibar can provide focus ahead of the Valencia tie.
He said: “Eibar always have high intensity, we like matches like that because we want to continue competing and we have the final.”
Forward Kevin-Prince Boateng has been ruled out by a left knee problem.
Eibar boss Jose Luis Mendilibar, whose side have already guaranteed their top-flight survival and could yet finish as high as 10th, hopes everyone can enjoy the end-of-season visit of the champions.
“I hope it’s a party for the fans and for us. We are in a comfortable position, we have fulfilled objectives,” he said, quoted by the club website.
“We would like to finish higher, among the top 10, and we have the possibility if we win.”