Messi came off the bench to rescue a point for the hosts as he created Barca's equaliser for Munir El Haddadi. And after Philippe Coutinho hit the bar on 60 minutes, Messi's free kick was headed off the line as Bilbao battled bravely to keep their lead in tact.
"The other players here are here on our own merits and we can't depend on him or Busquets, we should have been winning when they came on to the pitch".
"This is Barca. We have enough players, we don't need to depend on one".
Valverde admitted to reporters at his post-match press conference that while resting Messi was his "responsibility", he did so with one eye on the Champions League next week. "We have the strength in depth so we want to make the most of it".
It was the eighth goal conceded by Barcelona this season - they reached the halfway point of last season having only conceded nine goals.
Messi and Sergio Busquets were put on the bench by Valverde ahead of Barcelona's Champions League match at Tottenham on Wednesday. "I knew it was a risky decision". With Barca and Real Madrid locked at the top of La Liga with four wins and a draw apiece, a slip up against Leganes could prove pretty costly for Ernesto Valverde, even at this early stage. I took that risk and haven't won.
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But Emery also appeared to suggest he understood every player had to maximise his earning potential during what is a short career. Leno has played in the cup matches against Vorskla and Brentford but Cech was recalled for the league clash with Watford today.
Barcelona are still top of the league but they have slipped up for three games in a row and are far from their best.
Leganes, however, will draw positives from the match as they will hoping to get out of the bottom three on the La Liga table.
"There's no anxiety", he added. Recent results have not been good but it is a long season'.
Leganes had to wait until the 30th minute for their first opening as Youssef En-Neysri broke into the box and picked out Rubén Pérez, who fired straight at goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. We're going to try to win.
"We have to improve and become stronger in defence, which is the most important thing".