Lionel Messi has engaged in a war of words with Eric Abidal after the Barcelona sporting director suggested Ernesto Valverde was fired because the players were not happy with him.
Messi believes Abidal, who plays a huge role in appointing and sacking coaches at Barca, is passing the buck on January’s decision to dismiss Valverde and replace him with Quique Setien.
The Argentina forward says Abidal should take responsibility for his own actions and complained that he had spoken about players in general without naming anyone in specific.
Sources have told ESPN that Messi feels he’s been incorrectly blamed for Valverde’s sacking and that the sporting director’s comments will encourage more people to draw false conclusions.
“I honestly don’t like doing these things but everyone has to be responsible for their job and take responsibility for their decisions,” Messi wrote on Instagram.
“When things don’t go well on the pitch, the players are the first ones to recognise as much. Those in the sporting department at the club should also take responsibility for their actions and decisions.
“Finally, I think that when you speak about players, you should have to give names. If you don’t, you’re dirtying everyone’s name and encouraging things which are said which are not true.”
Abidal had said: “Many players were not satisfied or working a lot [under Valverde] and there was also an issue with internal communication.
“The relationship between the coach and the dressing room was good, but there are things that an ex-player can smell. I told the club what I thought and we reached a decision.”
Messi was one of a number of players who had always stood behind Valverde. Sources explained to ESPN in the wake of his dismissal that the support from the dressing room was one of the main reasons president Josep Maria Bartomeu hadn’t pulled the trigger after last year’s Champions League defeat to Liverpool.
Messi’s frustrations off the pitch have been heightened by his struggles on it. ESPN revealed earlier on Monday that he has been suffering from a thigh problem for a few weeks, although his form has not been hit massively and the club are optimistic about managing the discomfort.
Amid all this, there remains a clause in Messi’s contract that would allow him to walk away for nothing at the end of the season, even though his deal runs until 2021.
“Negotiations have started with the president and [CEO] Oscar Grau and the idea is to sign a longer deal than one that gets renewed every year,” Abidal added in his interview.
“I am [optimistic Messi will extend]. We have the best player in the world and we shouldn’t lose him. We have to be optimistic. I think Messi is happy here, he’s enjoying his job. He’s showing his best level, breaking records.
“We, as a club, want to make him happier. And, for that, we have to give him the best teammates, improve the team each year and be in with a chance of winning titles. We’ll try to do that well and I think we’ll reach a deal with Leo. He knows that Barca needs him.” (ESPN)