Champions League: Barca To Play Napoli Behind Closed Doors

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (R) scores a goal against Real Sociedad’s Spanish goalkeeper Alex Remiro during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 7, 2020. PHOTO: LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona’s Champions League round of 16 return match against Napoli on March 18 has been ordered to be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus outbreak, both clubs announced Tuesday.

“The Champions League match scheduled for Wednesday, March 18, between FC Barcelona and Napoli, will be played at Camp Nou behind closed doors,” the Spanish giants said on Twitter.

Two other Champions League matches — Tuesday’s tie between Valencia and Atalanta in Spain, and Wednesday’s Paris Saint-Germain v Borussia Dortmund match — are scheduled to be played in empty stadiums in efforts to curb the spread of the killer virus.

PSG’s match at the Parc des Princes was forced behind closed doors after the French government announced a ban on all gatherings of more than 1,000 people in a country where 1,412 cases of COVID-19 infections have been recorded and 25 deaths.

The announcement was closely followed by the postponement of the Six Nations rugby match between France and Ireland scheduled for Saturday in Paris.

Spanish club Valencia’s match against Atalanta was considered high risk and ordered behind closed doors because the Italian side come from Bergamo in the Lombardy region, one of the areas of Italy most affected by the virus.

Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country with 9,172 cases and 463 deaths, on Monday banned all sporting events until April 3, suspending all Serie A football fixtures.

Barcelona said the match would be played without spectators in line with recommendations from the regional Catalan government.

The decision was taken following a meeting between club officials and Catalan medical staff earlier Tuesday.

“The decision was taken on medical grounds,” Catalonia’s health chief Joan Graux said following the meeting.

Napoli, meanwhile, were forced to deny press reports that they had asked for the match to be postponed.

“Napoli abides by decisions taken by the Italian government and UEFA.” the club tweeted, describing the reports as fake news.

AFP

Controversial Messi Penalty Gives Barcelona Win Against Real Sociedad

Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 7, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP
Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring a goal during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on March 7, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona needed a dubious late penalty given by VAR and converted by Lionel Messi to scrape past Real Sociedad 1-0 on Saturday and avoid another slip-up in La Liga’s title race. 

Messi’s 24th goal of the season, and fifth in four games, was enough to save Barca, despite a drab display that threatened to bring more disappointment following last weekend’s loss against Real Madrid.

Madrid drop to second in the table but can restore their one-point advantage at the top by winning away at struggling Real Betis on Sunday night.

Their Clasico victory at the Santiago Bernabeu put the pressure back on Barcelona, whose response was hardly resounding, with Quique Setien’s side ultimately reliant on VAR to spot a handball in the 81st minute from Robin Le Normand.

The lack of appeal from Barca’s players and the chunk of play that passed before VAR intervened made the decision all the more surprising and la Real’s players were still shaking their heads at the final whistle.

Yet the win was all-important for the Catalans at the end of another week dominated by headlines surrounding problems off the pitch.

Setien said he had apologised to the squad after his assistant Eder Sarabia was shown to have launched into a number of foul-mouthed rants against the players during the game against Madrid, even if there were chants in support of Sarabia before kick-off.

Barcelona created a handful of openings during the first half and Martin Braithwaite, making his first start, was at the heart of most of them, with his willingness to run in behind offering a good alternative in attack.

Twice Messi sent Braithwaite free early on but his lung-busting runs ended in tame shots, even if they were still greatly appreciated by an encouraging home crowd. When he did hit one into the net, he was pulled back for offside.

Messi created a chance of his own by hunting the ball down in the corner before retrieving a chipped Sergio Busquets pass over the top only to scuff the finish.

The chances came more frequently in the second half as Barca turned the screw. Messi slid one past the post and then sliced another over from Antoine Griezmann’s cushioned header.

Ivan Rakitic’s drive was parried, Gerard Pique’s header too straight and Jordi Alba’s ball across the face of goal just too far ahead of the diving Rakitic.

As chances went begging, la Real sensed an opportunity. Nacho Monreal flashed wide and Alexander Isak hammered over.

But just as the tension was growing, Barcelona were leant a helping hand, with VAR reviewing a handball from Le Normand and referee Martinez Munera persuaded to award the penalty. Messi made no mistake.

Atletico Madrid will hope for a tighter contest against Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday than their frantic 2-2 draw against Sevilla earlier on Saturday.

Joao Felix looked as sharp at the Wanda Metropolitano as he has done all season and completed a four-minute comeback for Atletico after Alvaro Morata’s penalty cancelled out Luuk de Jong’s opener for Sevilla.

But Lucas Ocampos levelled with another penalty at the end of a pulsating first half, again with the help of VAR after a foul by Kieran Trippier, whose involvement at Anfield on Wednesday could be in doubt.

Trippier took treatment after a heavy challenge from Nemanja Gudelj in the second half although the defender was able to finish the game and coach Diego Simeone insisted afterwards the problem was cramp.

The draw will be more gratefully received by Sevilla, who sit third in La Liga and two points ahead of Atletico, who stay fifth after missing an opportunity to close the gap.

 

AFP

Madrid Beat Barcelona In Clasico To Regain Top Spot

Real Madrid’s Spanish defender Sergio Ramos shoots against Barcelona’s wall during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on March 1, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Real Madrid won the Clasico and might have saved their season as they ended their slump in the best way possible on Sunday, by beating Barcelona 2-0 and returning to the top of La Liga. 

Vinicius Junior’s deflected finish and a stoppage-time goal from Mariano Diaz decided a frenzied contest at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Madrid were given life after a Champions League defeat by Manchester City had left them on the brink of crisis.

Instead, an affirming victory sends them one point clear at the top of the table and shifts focus back to Quique Setien’s Barcelona, who were outfought and, at times, outplayed, even if they had chances too.

Lionel Messi’s rasping shot was denied by Thibaut Courtois in the first half but it was the Argentinian’s opposing captain Sergio Ramos who was thrashing his arms in celebration after the final whistle.

READ ALSO: Man City Retain League Cup After Aston Villa Win

His reaction was an indication of the importance of this victory, not only for the effect it has on the standings but on the dynamic of the title race, which had seemed to switch firmly in favour of Barca.

Cristiano Ronaldo was watching from an executive box and Madrid could have done with him during a period in which they had won only one of their last five games.

Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday this match would not decide who lifted the trophy in May but a Barca win and a five-point gap might well have been difficult to close.

Yet from the start, Barcelona seemed keener to kill the game than win it, playing for time in the hope of keeping the contest tight, when they might have been better off attacking their opponents’ fragility.

Home advantage has certainly meant little in this fixture given Barca had won their last four league meetings here, with Ramos admitting last week that Madrid’s players have begun to feel anxiety inside their own stadium.

There was more tension than creativity in the early stages as Fede Valverde crashed into Arthur Melo before fellow Spain full-backs Dani Carvajal and Jordi Alba were both booked after a disagreement.

Madrid had the better of the play and regularly broke at speed through Vinicius down the left but constantly they failed to make the final pass, with Isco once left with his head in his hands after Marcelo opted not to pull back.

Courtois Rock Solid

Barcelona played for time, their passing slow and their lack of urgency to restart obviously. At one point Messi bent to do up his shoelaces and re-spotted the ball before taking a corner.

But the visitors also created chances as Antoine Griezmann drove over from Alba’s cutback and then Madrid had Courtois to thank for two excellent saves.

First, Arthur held off Toni Kroos to go clear but his finish was blocked by Courtois’ foot and then the Belgian palmed away Messi’s shot after he had skipped in behind Madrid’s defence.

Ramos was lucky to get away with an error that allowed Nelson Semedo to break past him while Alba risked a second yellow when he checked Valverde but referee Mateu Lahoz was unmoved.

Barcelona were sloppy after half-time and Madrid should have capitalised. Instead, Isco’s header beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen but not Gerard Pique on the line and Karim Benzema volleyed over after a sloppy pass from Arturo Vidal.

Vidal was replaced by Martin Braithwaite, Barca’s emergency signing, and he sprinted in behind Marcelo twice in his first minute.

But Madrid remained in the ascendancy and in the 71st minute they took the lead. Benzema came short and pointed right to encourage Vinicius to run in behind. Kroos found him and Vinicius’ shot deflected off the sliding Pique to beat Ter Stegen at his near post.

The game opened up as Barcelona chased an equaliser. Marcelo celebrated when Messi’s surge through was stopped by Raphael Varane. Pique headed Messi’s cross over at the near post. Messi picked up a yellow card for a frustrated slide on Casemiro.

In injury time, Ter Stegen ventured up for a late free-kick but it was Madrid that struck again. Mariano sped past Nelson Semedo and finished from the angle.

AFP

Griezmann Rescues Barcelona First Leg Draw At Napoli

Barcelona’s French forward Antoine Griezmann (R) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first-leg football match between SSC Napoli and FC Barcelona at the San Paolo Stadium in Naples on February 25, 2020. Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

 

Antoine Griezmann rescued a 1-1 draw for Barcelona at Napoli in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Tuesday.

Frenchman Griezmann struck just before the hour mark for Barca in Naples after Dries Mertens had put the hosts ahead in the 30th minute with his 121st Napoli goal, equalling the club all-time top scorer Marek Hamsik.

Barcelona ended the game with 10 men after Arturo Vidal was sent off with two minutes to go after picking up two yellow cards, following an angry clash with Napoli defender Mario Rui.

Lionel Messi failed to score on his first appearance at the Stadio San Paolo where Napoli legend Diego Maradona reigned supreme three decades ago.

The 32-year-old Messi scored four goals at the weekend in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Eibar that put the Spaniards back the top of La Liga, but could not add to his 114 Champions League goals.

The clash was the first between the two teams and also a Champions League debut for Barcelona coach Quique Setien and Napoli’s Gennaro Gattuso, who both took over after the group stage.

Messi fired over on nine minutes after combining well with Frenkie de Jong but Gattuso’s side piled the pressure on the Catalans.

Their pressing paid off on the half-hour mark, with Piotr Zielinski breaking free down the right before finding Mertens, who curled a magnificent finish past Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

He equalled Hamsik’s record and is now six goals clear of Maradona, but was forced off in the second half after a Sergio Busquets tackle for which the Spaniard will be suspended for the second leg.

Barcelona did not waste much time in getting on level terms, as Messi and Busquets combined to send Semedo into the box in the 57th minute.

The Portuguese full-back crossed low for Griezmann to power home right-footed.

Ter Stegen denied Lorenzo Insigne with Jose Callejon also missing a chance for a second, as did Messi with eight minutes to go.

Vidal was sent off after a sliding tackle on Rui before appearing to headbutt the Napoli defender.

The Chilean will also miss the return leg at the Camp Nou on March 18.

AFP

Messi Greatest Footballer Of All Time, Says Gattuso

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid, on December 1, 2019. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

 

Lionel Messi is the “greatest” footballer of all time, ahead of even Diego Maradona, Napoli coach Gennaro Gattuso said on Monday ahead of his side’s Champions League clash with Barcelona.

The 32-year-old Messi scored four goals at the weekend in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Eibar and has now been involved in more than 1,000 goals in his career, scoring 696 and assisting another 306.

Gattuso was quick to praise Messi, comparing the Barca star to Napoli legend Maradona.

“He’s the greatest and an example for everyone,” said Gattuso ahead of the sides’ last-16 first leg on Tuesday.

“He never says anything inappropriate. He does things that only exist on the Playstation, unthinkable things.

“But I saw him (Maradona) on VHS or DVD. I never saw him up close, at a stadium.

“I know the champion he was and I know I missed something wonderful. I reget it. Today I see Messi doing things that Maradona was doing.”

Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne was not so keen to accept that Messi has reached greater heights than 1986 World Cup winner Maradona.

“Messi is the best in the world today,” said Insigne. “But for us Neapolitans, Maradona is everything and I don’t want to compare them. Maradona is sacred.”

But Insigne and Gattuso agreed that their team have to be careful not to focus only on trying to stop Messi.

“We have to be careful with their whole team because it’s not just Messi,” said Gattuso.

Napoli are enjoying a recent upturn in form after a dreadful start to the Serie A season which culminated in the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti following a 4-0 win over Genk that sent them into the Champions League knockout stage.

Last season’s Serie A runners-up have won six of their last seven games.

“Tomorrow (Tuesday), I want a Napoli side that are not afraid,” added Gattuso.

“I want to see a team that knows how to battle… You need to stand up to Barcelona — you can’t worry.

“I want to see a lively team that plays with joy until the end. Can Napoli win the Champions League? Never say never.”

It is the first time Napoli have reached the knockout rounds since a last-16 loss to Real Madrid in 2017, while Barcelona are bidding to make the quarter-finals for a 13th consecutive season.

Barcelona Top La Liga Table

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi/ AFP

 

Spanish La Liga table after Sunday’s early matches (played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points):

Barcelona 25 17 4 4 62 29 55

Real Madrid 25 15 8 2 46 17 53

Getafe 24 12 6 6 36 22 42

Real Sociedad 24 12 4 8 42 31 40

Atletico Madrid 24 10 10 4 25 17 40

Sevilla 24 11 7 6 31 25 40

Villarreal 24 11 5 8 42 32 38

Valencia 25 10 8 7 35 37 38

Granada 25 11 3 11 32 31 36

Levante 25 10 2 13 31 36 32

Athletic Bilbao 25 7 10 8 24 22 31

Osasuna 25 7 10 8 31 35 31

Real Betis 25 7 9 9 35 40 30

Alaves 25 8 6 11 27 35 30

Valladolid 24 5 11 8 20 27 26

Eibar 24 6 6 12 22 37 24

Celta Vigo 25 5 9 11 22 34 24

Real Mallorca 25 6 4 15 26 42 22

Leganes 25 4 7 14 18 37 19

Espanyol 24 4 7 13 21 42 19

Messi Scores Four As Barcelona Thrash Eibar

Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi (R) kicks the ball during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona against SD Eibar at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 22, 2020. Josep LAGO / AFP
Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (R) kicks the ball during the Spanish league football match FC Barcelona against SD Eibar at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 22, 2020.
Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Lionel Messi scored four goals as Barcelona began a crunch week in their season by thrashing Eibar 5-0 in La Liga on Saturday. 

Barca play away at in-form Napoli in the Champions League on Tuesday before facing title rivals Real Madrid next weekend, with pressure on the team, and Messi, amid a period of political turbulence at the club.

Yet on the pitch, Messi showed no sign of distraction as the 32-year-old completed the second fastest of his now 36 career hat-tricks, after just 40 minutes at Camp Nou.

Messi added a late fourth after being teed up by Martin Braithwaite, Barcelona’s emergency signing who enjoyed an excellent cameo off the bench by claiming two assists, the second for Arthur Melo in injury-time.

Braithwaite’s contribution and Messi’s return to form delivered a timely boost ahead of what could prove a pivotal few days in Barca’s season.

Messi had gone four games without a goal in La Liga, his longest drought since 2014, even if those matches saw him register five assists. He now has 22 goals in 28 appearances this term.

And Braithwaite’s arrival from Leganes on Thursday drew criticism after Barcelona capitalised on a curious La Liga rule that allows clubs to sign outside of the transfer window if they have lost a player to injury for more than five months.

Leganes, without their top scorer, were beaten earlier by fellow strugglers Celta Vigo but Braithwaite made the perfect start with his new team, to suggest he could yet prove a useful addition during the run-in.

Messi said in an interview with Mundo Deportivo last week that Barcelona, “the way we are now”, will not have enough to go all the way in the Champions League, placing further doubts around the direction of the club on the back of his public spat with technical secretary Eric Abidal.

The Argentinian also described as “strange” the allegations, which have been denied by the club, that president Josep Maria Bartomeu hired a PR company that has criticised Barca players, including Messi, on social media.

Yet Saturday’s victory means Quique Setien’s side go top of La Liga, temporarily at least, with Real Madrid able to restore their one-point lead at the summit if they beat Levante later on Saturday.

Whatever happens, the reward for the winner of the Clasico next weekend will now claim first place, in a meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu that could have a considerable psychological impact on the title race.

With Napoli to come first in midweek in the Champions League last 16 first leg, Bartomeu will hope this result against Eibar sets the tone for recovery, particularly given the fans had waved white handkerchiefs, whistled and sang songs in protest against the club’s president before kick-off.

Messi quickly got to work, scoring a brilliant first goal in the 14th minute after collecting the ball centrally, around 30 yards out.

He had three Eibar defenders in front of him but found a way through, nutmegging Anaitz Arbilla before chipping delicately into the corner.

The second came in the 37th minute as Sergio Busquets found Arturo Vidal, who feathered a flick into Messi’s path. Messi surged forward, past his stumbling opponents, and fired in.

His third, three minutes later, was the simplest of the trio and arrived only after he tried to play in Antoine Griezmann. His generosity was rewarded as a sloppy Griezmann touch meant the ball cannoned back to Messi, who apologetically poked in.

Setien was able to take Griezmann off with 18 minutes left and introduce Braithwaite for his debut. Braithwaite’s first contribution was a skewed cross but things improved immeasurably from there, as two passes across goal gave Messi his fourth and Arthur his first.

 

AFP

Barcelona Sign Martin Braithwaite From Leganes

FILES) In this file photo taken on November 16, 2018 Denmark’s striker Martin Braithwaite celebrates after scoring their second goal during the UEFA Nations League Group B football match between Wales and Denmark at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff on November 16, 2018. 
Geoff CADDICK / AFP

 

Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Danish forward Martin Braithwaite from Leganes after capitalising on a curious La Liga rule to ease their shortage of options upfront. 

Barca have taken advantage of the regulation that enables Spanish clubs in the top two divisions to buy from another La Liga club outside the transfer window if they lose a player to injury for more than five months.

Ousmane Dembele is expected to be out for the rest of the season with a hamstring tear, allowing the Catalans to sign Braithwaite after paying the Dane’s 18 million euro buy-out clause.

“The player will sign a contract with the Club for the rest of the season and four more until 30 June 2024 with the buy out clause set at 300 million euros,” Barcelona announced on their website.

After also selling Youssef En-Nesyri to Sevilla last month, Braithwaite’s exit is a cruel blow for struggling Leganes, who will not be able to bring in a replacement unless an exception is made by La Liga.

Leganes sit 19th in the table and play 17th-placed Celta Vigo on Saturday. Braithwaite was their top scorer this season with six goals.

But the 28-year-old’s addition will give cover for Barcelona, who were already without Luis Suarez to a knee injury before Dembele’s extended absence was confirmed.

The club applied for permission last week to make an emergency signing and were given the green light by La Liga on Monday.

Braithwaite could make his debut when Barca play Eibar at Camp Nou in the league on Saturday but the rule states he will not be allowed to play in the Champions League.

His arrival comes after the club allowed Carles Perez to join Roma and Abel Ruiz to leave for Braga last month when both forwards might have proved useful options in the squad.

AFP

Barcelona Part Ways With PR Company For Criticising Messi, Others

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi/ AFP

 

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said on Tuesday the club has terminated its contract with a company accused of criticising current and former players, including Lionel Messi, on social media.

“This morning I personally gave instructions terminate the contract,” Bartomeu said at a journalism awards ceremony.

According to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser Cataluna on Monday, Barca hired a PR company, I3 Ventures, to improve the image of Bartomeu and the club’s board online.

The company oversaw “dozens” of accounts attacking the likes of Messi, Gerard Pique, Xavi Hernandez, Pep Guardiola and Carles Puyol on Facebook and Twitter.

Among the messages, the report cited is one expressing anger towards Messi for his delay in signing a new contract and another questioning Pique’s involvement in the Davis Cup.

In a statement on Monday, Barcelona denied that it was behind the messages and Bartomeu reiterated that stance on Tuesday.

“Barca has never hired a service to discredit anyone,” he said. “Not a player, not a former player, nor any politician, manager, president or former president.”

Bartomeu added: “That is flatly false. We will defend ourselves where necessary on this issue, by all means.”

Barcelona had already threatened legal action against any media organisations that “continue to implicate the club in this type of practice”.

“Let one thing be clear,” Bartomeu continued. “To the question: Have we commissioned the monitoring of social networks? The answer is yes.

“To the question: Have we commissioned to discredit people or institutions through social networks? The answer is no and we will take action against all those who accuse us of that.”

The controversy increases the pressure on Bartomeu and the Barcelona board ahead of presidential elections due next year and following a period of political turmoil at the club.

The board were clumsy in their sacking of coach Ernesto Valverde last month when an approach to Xavi Hernandez was leaked while Valverde was still in post.

And two weeks ago, Messi engaged in a public spat with the club’s technical secretary Eric Abidal, who claimed the players were the main cause of Valverde’s removal.

The timing of this latest controversy is also a potential distraction ahead of a crucial week for the team.

Barcelona play Eibar at home in La Liga on Saturday before facing Napoli away in the Champions League and then Real Madrid in the league at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Barcelona Coach Setien Keeps Mum Over Messi-Abidal Rift

FILES) In this file photo taken on February 21, 2019 Real Betis’ Spanish head coach Quique Setien smiles before the UEFA Europa League round of 32-second leg football match between Real Betis and Rennes at the Benito Villamarin stadium in Sevilla on February 21, 2019. AFP

 

Barcelona coach Quique Setien said on Wednesday he would not comment on the controversy between forward Lionel Messi and sporting director Eric Abidal.

Messi hit back at Abidal on Tuesday after the Frenchman had earlier blamed slackness in the dressing room for the departure of recently-fired boss Ernesto Valverde.

In an interview with Spanish newspaper Sport, Abidal said under Valverde, who was fired in mid-January, many players had been unhappy, had not worked hard enough and had not communicated properly.

“I’m not going to get into Messi’s life or anyone’s life,” said Setien, who replaced Valverde.

“What interests me is football, everything else are situations that I will not be able to control therefore I do not sweat on it,” the 61-year-old added.

Setien denied he had spoken individually to the Argentina attacker about the incident but said it had been briefly discussed in a training session by the squad.

Messi signed his last contract extension in 2017, with his current deal running through to next year but reportedly containing a clause that could allow him to quit Barcelona in June.

The former Real Betis boss said Messi’s behaviour remained the same despite the falling out with Abidal.

“I have seen him smiling, I have seen him looking happy, he loves to come to training, he loves to be here and I have seen him just like he was yesterday or the day before yesterday,” Setien said.

Setien said his only focus was Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final tie at Athletic Bilbao.

“The importance of tomorrow’s match, the obligation we have is to focus totally and absolutely on the match,” Setien said.

Messi Hits Back At Abidal After Dressing Room Criticism

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish league football match be tween FC Barcelona and Levante UD at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on February 2, 2020.
LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Lionel Messi has hit back at Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal after the Frenchman blamed slackness in the dressing room for the departure of recently-fired coach Ernesto Valverde.

In an interview with Spanish daily Sport Abidal said that under Valverde, who was sacked in mid-January, many players had been unhappy, hadn’t worked hard enough nor communicated properly.

Now Argentine ace Messi has fired a salvo at across his own ranks just as the club are trying to get him to sign a contract extension.

“Sincerely I don’t like doing this kind of thing but everyone has to be made responsible for their actions and what they say,” Messi said on Instagram.

“We the players in the dressing room are the first to admit it when we haven’t played well. The directors need to take their responsibilities too.

“I believe that if you talk about the players (in this way) you should name names instead of worrying everyone and encouraging rumours that are far from certain.”

Earlier Tuesday Abidal had spoken glowingly of Messi and had sounded optimistic of an extended deal

“I’m sure we’ll come to a deal with Leo because he knows we need him. He’s on top form, enjoying his game and breaking records,” said Abidal.

“We as a club want to make him even happier and to do that by surrounding him with the right teammates. We want a strong team with a good everyday feeling and above all, we want to win titles.”

Messi signed his last extension in 2017, with his current deal running through to 2021 but reportedly containing a clause that could allow him to quit Barcelona in June.

AFP

Dembele Pulls Out Of Barca Training

Ousmane Dembele of Barcelona during the warm-up before the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Levante UD at Camp Nou on April 27, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. AFP

 

Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele pulled out of training on Monday amid fears the Frenchman has suffered a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury.

“During this morning’s training session, Ousmane Dembele felt some discomfort in his right leg as a consequence of muscle fatigue,” Barcelona said in a statement. “He will continue with his rehabilitation.”

Dembele has not played for Barca since November 27 but had been expected to return this month.

The 22-year-old has endured a spate of injuries since moving to Camp Nou from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 and has only made nine appearances this term.

AFP