Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona has been thrown into doubt after the six-time Ballon d’Or winner took the unusual step of publicly condemning the club’s sporting director for comments made in the media.
The 32-year-old made his feelings known after Eric Abidal criticised the playing squad in a newspaper interview in which he explained the decision to sack Ernesto Valverde while the club were top of La Liga.
“Many players weren’t satisfied or working hard and there was also an internal communication problem,” Abidal told Diario Sport.
“The relationship between the coach and the dressing room has always been good but there are things as an ex-player that I could smell. I told the club what I thought and we reached a decision [on Valverde].”
Club captain Messi took to Instagram to respond angrily to the comments made by his former team-mate.
Adding a screenshot of the article to his story he wrote: “Sincerely, I don’t like to do these things but I think that people have to be responsible for their jobs and own their decisions.
“The heads of the sports department have to take their responsibilities too and above all own the decisions they make.
“Finally, I think that when you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it makes everyone dirty and gives air to things that are said which are not true.”
The row between Messi and Abidal has taken the club another step towards crisis following news that winger Osumane Dembele has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury.
With Luis Suarez also facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines and Antoine Griezmann and youngster Ansu Fati the only other available forward options, the club can ill afford to see Messi disillusioned.
The comments made by Messi, who has spent his entire career at the club, are even more significant due to a clause in his contract that says he has the option to leave for free this summer – despite his current deal running until 2021.
He said: “He has earned that freedom to decide his future, but he is very Cule [Barcelona fan] and I am calm. Xavi, Iniesta and Puyol had the same clause.”
Clubs in China, the United States and the Middle East will all be interested in signing the four-time Champions League winner, but Abidal mentioned in another interview with Diario Sport that Messi was happy at Camp Nou and a new contract is currently being negotiated.
Meanwhile, reports made by Sky Sports suggest that Bartomeu has called a meeting with Abidal to discuss the sporting director’s future at the club following the public disagreement.