Barcelona head coach, Luiz Enrique refused to reveal why he chose to substitute Lionel Messi during the routine La Liga victory against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

The Argentine maestro scored his team’s second goal of their 3-0 win at Camp Nou with a sublime free-kick – breaking Ronald Koeman’s Barca free-kick record of 26 goals – but was surprisingly hauled off after just 64 minutes.

Messi seemed a little frustrated to have been taken off so early in the game but he was later spotted joking with Luis Suarez - who himself was an unused substitute – during the closing stages.

It is suspected that Luis Enrique was simply keen to give the 29-year old a much-deserved rest ahead of Tuesday’s Copa del Rey semi-final second leg clash against Atletico Madrid, but when he was asked to explain his decision, Enrique refused to reveal the reason for his decision.

Messi – who had played every minute of Barcelona’s matches in 2017 until that point – had a very good game against Bilbao and must have been unhappy to be taken off.

“I will not comment,” he told a news conference. “You always want the story but I don’t want you to write this. I’m not going to give you information.”

Athletic looked the better of the two teams early on until they were dealt a huge blow in the 18th minute when Paco Alcacer fired the ball in, to score his first league goal of the season.

Enrique was delighted to see his summer signing finally get his first La Liga goal of the season.
“I enjoyed it almost more than the goals that I scored,” he said.

“I am happy for Paco, not just because of the type of player he is, but also because of how he is as a person.”

Next up for Bacelona and Lionel Messi is a blockbuster clash against Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final.