Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has acknowledged that his side are 'dependent' on Lionel Messi following their 4-4 draw with Villarreal, but only because he's the 'best in the world'.
The Catalan side raced into a two-goal lead after only 16 minutes, but found themselves 4-2 down at the hands of their relegation-threatened hosts with just ten minutes remaining, before late goals from Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez rescued a point for Barca.
Messi - who has now netted 42 goals this season in all competitions following his sublime free-kick - began the game on the bench before being introduced just after the hour mark, although Valverde admitted it was a luxury that should not have needed to be utilised.
Speaking to reporters post-match, as quoted by AOL, he said: "Of course there is a Messi dependence, of course it exists, he is the best in the world. But we must know that when he isn't playing, we must play the same way, like in the first half.
"There was no Messi dependence [in the first half] and the team was fine and [should have been] able to win the match."
Barcelona's lead at the top of La Liga has now been cut to eight points following the draw at the Estadio de la Ceramica and Atletico Madrid's 2-0 win over Girona, ahead of their meeting at the Camp Nou on Saturday, which will have major implications on the title race.
While Valverde was bemused by his side's drop in performance levels after taking a two-goal lead, the Spaniard was pleased with the character his team showed to get back into the game, insisting it will serve them well in the remainder of the season, as Barca look to clinch a treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
He added: "This game has helped us a lot, especially for the games that are to come," he added. "It makes people realise that the league is complicated, the teams are good and they have a spirit to fight.
"They [Villarreal] are a good team and they have troubled us. We must improve so that the opponents do not take us lightly, because we will play against teams that play for the league and the Champions League, and against those teams you cannot do that."