Head coach Ronald Koeman has admitted “our opponents had more fear when [Lionel] Messi was here” after Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Athletic Bilbao.
The Catalans – who witnessed Spain centre-back Eric Garcia dismissed at the death – required a 75th-minute leveller from Netherlands addition Memphis Depay to return unbeaten from San Mames Barria. Inigo Martinez had given the hosts a 50th-minute lead.
“I don’t like to always talk about the same thing, but we’re talking about the best in the world. Our opponents had more fear when Messi was here,” said Koeman, whose charges began life minus the Argentina icon last weekend with a 4-2 win against another Basque side in Real Sociedad.
“For us as well, if you pass the ball to Leo, usually he won’t lose it. You can tell [Messi] isn’t there.
“We know that and we can’t change it.”
Barcelona – who finished third last term – next host Getafe on Sunday, prior to the international break.