Barcelona boss Luis Enrique says the decision not to attend The Best FIFA Football Awards gala was taken by the players.
Stars including Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Gerard Pique and Andres Iniesta did not travel to Zurich for the event on Monday, with the club confirming that the team had stayed in Spain in order to continue preparations for Thursday’s Copa del Rey match with Athletic Bilbao.
Cristiano Ronaldo, who beat Messi to the award for best men’s player, said he would have preferred the Barca contingent to be present, while Roberto Carlos and Dani Alves also criticised their decision to miss the event.
Luis Enrique says it was ultimately down to the players to decide whether or not to go to Switzerland but insists he backs their choice completely given the importance of their game with Athletic.
“In principle, the idea to go or not is individual,” he told a news conference. “As their coach, I can only back their decision. There’s a sporting situation that’s more important.
“There are certain commitments the players must take into account. I back their decision 100 per cent.”
Asked for his view on Ronaldo’s remarks shortly after he collected his trophy, Luis Enrique replied: “I’m very lucky – I haven’t seen any TV for a week.”
The players’ absence came during a difficult week for Barca, in which Pique has once again caused a storm with his criticism of officials following some controversial decisions in the games against Athletic and Villarreal.
“It’s Pique’s opinion – he’s an adult and he knows what he should say,” Luis Enrique said of the centre-back’s frustrated remarks. “In any case, I’m happy with him as a footballer, he’s a key player for us.
“Everyone has a way of expressing themselves. It’s very easy to complain and to cry about this.
“I’ve spoken to Gerard about a lot of things. It’s a personal opinion. I think what the coach and the club say has to be clear. It’s not my decision. It’s tough when you see situations as we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks but the goal is for the referees to make the right decisions, as few mistakes as possible, and put on a show.”
Barca trail 2-1 from the first leg at San Mames and Luis Enrique believes the meeting at Camp Nou will be more entertaining given that his side have a disadvantage to overturn.
“It’s obvious that we got an undesirable result in Bilbao but having scored a goal gives us confidence for the second leg,” he added.
“It’s a different incentive to what we have in LaLiga. We’re coming off two negative results and we want to change. They were unfair results in those two games.
“We know we normally play with a lot of space in behind us in defence and that we shouldn’t commit many mistakes. These are risks that we know of.
“We need to go out and score a goal and move ahead of them on aggregate. This will make them take more risks. It makes return legs more attractive.
“What we need is a victory, especially when we’ve played as we have in the last couple of games, where we feel like we deserved more.”