Barça find themselves dealing with a stand-off between Luis Enrique and Leo Messi. Like many of his team mates, the Argentinean doesn’t share the coach’s beliefs on which system suits Barça best and now he has decided to take a stand. Messi has more or less made it known to the board that it’s either him or me - you choose. Faced with this dilemma, Barça’s directors are trying to diffuse the situation before it gets out of hand and hope to achieve reconciliation between the two. However if the issue does reach a critical point, Bartomeu is clear about what decision to take. If forced to choose between the best player in the world and an under-fire coach whose methods are under question, the President is in no doubt what action to take.
A crisis meeting on the eve of the Reyes’ holiday led to the sacking of Andoni Zubizarreta. One of the motives behind the dismissal was that the Sports Director now saw himself incapable of mediating between the star player and coach or handle a relationship which was becoming increasingly distant.
The confrontations between Messi and the coach were becoming a habitual feature of the team’s training sessions. On January 2 things came to a head when the Argentine fumed, “I’ll see you in the changing room”. Other sources claim that the two very nearly came to blows. It wasn’t the first dispute between the two but perhaps the most serious as it occurred in front of the rest of the squad, during a mini-practice match in which Luis Enrique disallowed a goal scored by the Argentine.
There was another scene when Barça played at Anoeta, according to ‘Mundo Deportivo’. When the players were making their way down the tunnel after the match, Messi confronted the team’s psychologist and one of Luis Enrique’s closest acquaintances, Joaquín Valdés. After a heated discussion, Messi spent the whole of the journey back to Barcelona in silence. The following day, he failed to show up at the Mini Estadi because of a bout of gastroenteritis.
Half an hour before the January 5 training session at the Mini Estadi, Xavi realized that Messi was absent. It was the captain who showed concern about why the Argentinean had failed to show up. Luis Enrique was in his office and oblivious to the situation.
It was Xavi who informed Luis Enrique that Messi was not feeling well; the fact that the player had not told him directly himself enraged the coach who threatened disciplinary measures against Messi. Details of this heated discussion only emerged when Catalan daily, Sport published a piece about the incident on their web site.
Barcelona refutes claims that a disciplinary hearing had been arranged but it is true that the coach, at one point, had such a measure in mind. Only the intervention of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets, all of whom are used to Messi’s outbursts, made sure that calm was restored.
It was then that the club issued a medical report stating that Messi was suffering from gastroenteritis, which excused him from any kind of punishment. A few hours later, Messi began following Chelsea’s official account on Instagram…