Messi hits back at club director who criticised Barcelona players

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Barcelona will not be destabilised by a possible confrontation between talisman Lionel Messi and sporting director Eric Abidal, coach Quique Setien said on Wednesday.

The usually introverted Messi caused a stir by criticising his former team mate Abidal on Tuesday, saying in a post on Instagram that the club’s hierarchy, not the players, should take responsibility for sacking Ernesto Valverde last month.

Abidal had told newspaper Sport that he had sensed that “many players weren’t satisfied or working hard” under Valverde. Messi responded by saying Abidal should name which players he had in mind so as not to tarnish the image of the entire squad.

Messi’s intervention dominated the front pages of Wednesday’s sports newspapers: Sport said his reaction had caused a ‘tsunami’, Marca declared the Argentine had delivered ‘a knockout blow’, while AS headlined their edition ‘FC Chaos’.

Setien said he had spoken to the players about the disagreement for around a minute and that they were only concerned about their upcoming matches, beginning with Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final tie at Athletic Bilbao.

“I will do everything to ensure this does not affect the team, all I’m interested in is tomorrow’s game and the obligation to get through to the next round. I can’t control anything else and won’t waste my energy,” he told reporters. “This situation doesn’t affect me, all I can do is give the players the tools they need to make the most of their talent. Every single club has its problems but there are things I can’t control, so please, only talk to me about football.”

Messi’s criticism of Abidal came on the same day Barca learned that winger Ousmane Dembele had ruptured his hamstring and would miss the rest of the season, adding to their shortages in attack while Luis Suarez recovers from knee surgery.

Setien said that he was more concerned about Dembele’s injury than Messi’s musings on social media, adding that the club’s all-time goalscorer was in good spirits and did not need to be reminded about his responsibilities.

“Of course I believe he is as motivated as ever, he’s smiling, he looks well and he loves coming here to train. He’s the same as yesterday or the day before,” Setien added. “Messi has enough experience and ability to know what he needs to do, I’m not going to get involved in his life or anyone else’s. I’m not the father of any of these players, all I have to do is get them to train. The rest isn’t part of my job.”

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