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Tata & Messi Deny Substitution Rift

Barcelona manager ‘Tata’ Martino has again been forced onto the back foot after a win.

Recently he defended himself against accusations of burying tiki-taka, after Barca had comprehensively swatted aside tricky Rayo Vallecano on their own home ground.

And now he has been forced to explain why he substituted superstar Lionel Messi, towards the end of Barca’s demolition of Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Messi had been unusually profligate, even though he did score one goal, registered an assist, and was largely involved in Barca’s other two goals.

And with the games coming thick and fast, Martino opted to remove his most important player from the fray.

The game was never in doubt, but still Messi did not seem elated when he trudged his way towards the dugout.

After the match, Messi was accused by some pundits of petulance, while Martino was chided for deigning to slap the superstar in the face by substituting him.

However, Messi denies reacting poorly to his substitution, and Martino insists it was for the best.

"I didn't make any gesture when Martino subbed me," Messi wrote on his Facebook page.

"Nobody likes to be go off but we must accept it as it's the best for our team.

"I won't accept that certain media tell lies about everything that happens with me."

"Messi never wants to be subbed off, but it's my task to take care of him," Martino added after the match. "We need him at end of season as well as now.”

Martino also had praise for new boy Neymar, who marked another twinkle-toed display with his first La Liga goal for Barca, even if the finish was surprisingly clumsy for the samba star.

"Neymar is an exceptional player," Martino. "It has surprised us how hard he wants to work for the team.

Read: Tata: Barca Not Long-Ball Merchants

Read: Barca Boss Sociedad

Watch: Iniesta and Neymar’s prove that tiki-taka lives against Real Sociedad

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