Messi - it had to be him - snatched a point Barca scarcely deserved with a curling effort that Rico could only get a hand to as the league leaders completed an unlikely recovery.
Valverde said in his post-match press conference via Marca: "It's true that Messi has an injury niggle, however I had always planned for him to play some part. He had gone a bit of time without playing and he needed to play".
Ernesto Valverde's team can draw level with Real Sociedad's top-flight record - set between 1979 and 1980 - next weekend if they avoid defeat at home to Leganes.
"Every time he touches the ball, he is decisive but we all knew that already", said Valverde, who alluded to what happened to a Messi-less Argentina against Spain.
Manchester City is one win away from being crowned Premier League champion after a swaggering 3-1 victory over Everton, while Mohamed Salah was Liverpool's hero yet again as the Egypt star clinched a 2-1 win at Crystal Palace. "Hence the celebration of ours".
"Getting a draw like this, with the spirit of the team, gives us a lot".
There were times when we didn't control the game because we were risking a lot, and their counters were very risky.
They would have been deserving winners here and, in truth, could have been out of sight had Muriel and Vazquez finished any number of unsafe breaks in the second half.
Sevilla produced arguably their best performance of the season against Barca, as they controlled much of the match and created a host of chances.
Girona went ahead early in the second half with a shot by Alex Granell, who found the top corner from outside the area.
Karim Benzema had doubled Real's lead before half-time as Los Blancos moved just one point behind second-placed Atletico.
Levante remained 17th, but it opened a seven-point lead over Las Palmas, the first team inside the relegation zone.
The only worry for Zidane was the sight of Nacho hobbling off in the first half, with what appeared to be a hamstring problem. "It is a concern but hopefully only little and the rest is all good". But what I can say is that I am very happy.