Messi’s Father Says His Son Could Stay At Barca

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi, appeared to concede his son could remain at Barcelona this season, according to footage broadcast by Spanish media on Thursday.

Messi senior seemingly replied “yes” when asked by a reporter if they had considered the possibility of staying at the club for another season and then leaving for free next year, in a video recorded by Spanish TV station Cuatro.

The images were captured as Jorge Messi pulled into a parking garage reportedly for another day of meetings with the family’s lawyers.

He had arrived in Barcelona on Wednesday, landing at the private terminal in El Prat airport on a flight from the Argentine city of Rosario.

 

 

File photo: Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi arrives at his apartment in Barcelona on September 02, 2020. Lionel Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as the striker upped the stakes in his battle to leave this summer. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as he tries to force his way out of the club he joined as a 13-year-old.

Messi also failed to attend a coronavirus test at Barcelona’s training ground on Sunday.

Messi’s father was followed throughout the city by reporters and TV crews on Wednesday and told reporters it would be “difficult” for his son to stay at Barcelona.

According to local reports, club directors met with Messi and his advisors for more than two hours on Wednesday, but neither party was willing to alter their stance. Further negotiations are expected to be held in due course between Barcelona and Messi’s entourage, which also includes his brother Rodrigo.

Barcelona insist their captain remains under contract until June 2021 and will only depart if his 700-million-euro ($833 million) release clause is activated, a stance that has been backed up by La Liga, who say that release clause still applies.

But Messi and his lawyers argue he is allowed to go for free this summer according to another clause in his contract, which they claim was triggered on August 25 when a burofax stating Messi’s intention to leave arrived at Camp Nou.

Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City have expressed an interest in signing him.

AFP

Messi’s Father Lands In Spain As Barca Stand-Off Drags On

Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi arrives at his apartment in Barcelona on September 02, 2020. Lionel Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as the striker upped the stakes in his battle to leave this summer.
LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

Jorge Messi, father and agent of Lionel Messi, landed in Barcelona on Wednesday, an AFP correspondent said, ahead of talks with the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu about the striker’s intention to leave this summer.

Messi senior flew in from the Argentine city of Rosario, landing at the private terminal in Barcelona’s El Prat airport on Wednesday morning.

“I don’t know anything,” he told reporters before getting into a taxi.

Jorge Messi will be hoping to unblock the stand-off between Barca and his son, which threatens to descend into an expensive and bitter legal battle if a resolution cannot be found.

The 33-year-old striker boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, as he tries to force his way out of the club he joined as a 13-year-old boy.

Messi had also failed to attend a coronavirus test at Barcelona’s training ground on Sunday.

 

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

Yet Barcelona insist their captain will only depart if his 700-million-euro ($833 million) release clause is activated, a stance that has been backed up by La Liga, who say that release clause still applies.

But Messi and his lawyers argue he is allowed to go for free this summer according to another clause in his contract, which they claim was triggered on August 25 when a burofax stating Messi’s intention to leave arrived at Camp Nou.

If Messi joins another club but loses in court, he could be liable to pay the 700 million euros Barcelona are owed.

Manchester City are the firm favourites to sign Messi, not least because of his previous success with City coach Pep Guardiola. Inter Milan, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are also interested.

AFP

Barcelona, Real Madrid To Meet October After La Liga Fixtures Were Announced

File photo: 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

 

 

Barcelona will play Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season at Camp Nou on October 25, after the La Liga fixtures were announced on Monday.

Barca and Madrid will then face each other at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 11, with Zinedine Zidane’s side looking to defend the Spanish league title they won in July.

Whether Lionel Messi features in either match remains to be seen, with the Argentinian currently on strike and refusing to train as he tries to force his way out of the club this summer.

File photo: (L-R) Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi, Barcelona’s Portuguese defender Nelson Semedo and Barcelona’s French forward Ousmane Dembele celebrate a goal during the Spanish league football match between Barcelona and Villarreal at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona on May 9, 2018. PHOTO: Pau Barrena / AFP

 

Barcelona are scheduled to start at home to Elche and Madrid at home to Getafe but both games will be rearranged to allow more rest for teams involved in last season’s European competitions, which only ended in August.

Atletico Madrid’s opener at home to Sevilla will therefore also be postponed.

Instead, Real Madrid are likely to begin at Real Sociedad on the weekend of September 20 before Barcelona are expected to start at home to Villarreal a week later.

All matches will continue to be staged behind closed doors and according to strict medical regulations aimed at reducing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first games of the new season will be played on the weekend of September 12, eight weeks after the 2019/20 campaign ended on July 19.

AFP

Messi Boycotts First Pre-Season As Barcelona Demand $833m Release Clause

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File photo: Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi looks downwards during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

Lionel Messi boycotted Barcelona’s first pre-season training session on Monday, club sources have confirmed to AFP, as the striker upped the stakes in his battle to leave this summer.

After skipping coronavirus tests on Sunday, Messi was absent again from the club’s Ciutat Esportiva training ground, where Ronald Koeman held a session at 5:30 pm, his first since being appointed Barca coach.

It appears increasingly likely Messi will try to force a transfer by refusing to play in La Liga next season, which begins on September 12.

The 33-year-old and his lawyers believe that participating in Barcelona’s pre-season programme would contradict their argument that Messi no longer belongs to the club.

They insist a clause in his contract that allows Messi to depart for free this summer was activated last Tuesday when the burofax stating his intention to leave arrived at the Camp Nou.

 

messi
File photo: Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

But Barcelona maintain that clause had to be activated by June 10 and the deadline has not been extended, despite the season being prolonged due to the pandemic, with the men’s Champions League final played on August 23.

La Liga backed up Barca’s position on Sunday by announcing that the release clause in Messi’s contract, set at 700 million euros ($833 million), still applies.

The club’s captain and greatest ever player, who has scored 634 goals for them and won 34 titles, now risks being punished either by a fine or, if his absence continues, a reduction in salary.

Manchester City remain favourites to sign Messi, whose basic salary alone amounts to around 60 million euros.

The Argentinian has reportedly spoken to City coach Pep Guardiola but other clubs remain in the running, including Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Juventus.

AFP

‘We Can’t Afford It’: Mueller Rules Out Messi Moving To Bayern

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Bayern Munich forward Thomas Mueller jokingly conceded Thursday the European champions do not have the financial resources to sign Barcelona star Lionel Messi if he becomes available.

“I spoke to our financial director once or twice over the past months. And I don’t think there’s anything we can do,” a jestful Mueller said when asked about the possibility of signing Messi at a promotional event in Munich.

Messi reportedly earns an annual salary upwards of 50 million euros ($59 million), almost three times more than Bayern’s highest-paid players, such as Robert Lewandowski, Manuel Neuer and Mueller.

Mueller admitted he never foresaw Messi leaving Barcelona before retiring as a player but said he understood why the prospect of the Argentine’s Camp Nou exit was drawing such huge interest.

“The fact that some change is happening now might also be interesting for the footballing world,” said Mueller.

“Apart from Barcelona fans, which I can understand, nobody is really able to see this departure with a critical eye. People are rather curious to know what new avenues will open up,” he added.

Bayern chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told Italian sports daily Tuttosport that the German club could “not pay a player of that calibre”.

“That is not part of our policy or our philosophy,” he said.

 

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi smiles during the Spanish League football match between RCD Mallorca and FC Barcelona at the Visit Mallorca stadium (Son Moix stadium) in Palma de Mallorca on June 13, 2020. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP)

 

Manchester City, coached by former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan are the clubs most strongly linked with an audacious swoop for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.

AFP

Top European Clubs Battle As Messi Tells Barcelona He Is Leaving

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

 

Lionel Messi’s bombshell request to leave Barcelona is expected to spark a legal battle over a multi-million-dollar buy-out clause but also raises the question of which club could afford him in the heat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Messi’s priority has always been to be part of a “winning project” at Camp Nou, and newly-appointed sporting director Ramon Planes on Wednesday hailed the Argentinian a “winner” the Catalan club was working hard to keep.

As it stands, Messi is Barca’s record scorer and has been part of a team that has amassed four Champions League titles, 10 La Liga titles and six Copa del Rey trophies.

The 33-year-old’s latest season, however, was not only devoid of trophies (for the first time since 2008), it was also defined by chaos and ended in humiliation with an 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat by eventual champions Bayern Munich.

 

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

Messi, a six-time Ballon d’Or winner, has not asked for a transfer to put his feet up for the final years of his career. This is a considered move aimed at bolstering his successes, and in one competition in particular.

– Champions League obsession –

The Champions League has become his obsession, which puts all of Europe’s super-clubs in contention and eliminates the less intensive, or more romantic, options, at least for now.

With a reported weekly salary of nearly one million euros, those able both to afford Messi, and convince him, may only be Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, with Inter Milan a third, more distant option.

City would appear favourites but the club have always trodden carefully around the prospect of Messi. Their sporting staff, including coach Pep Guardiola, sporting director Txiki Begiristain and chief executive Ferran Soriano, all have connections with Barcelona they are keen to respect.

For PSG, whose frustration in Europe has been comparable to City’s, even if they broke new ground by reaching last weekend’s final, Messi would also represent a seismic addition to the Qatari project.

A Neymar-Messi-Kylian Mbappe front three would not be a difficult sell.

Staying at Barcelona remains a possibility, however, particularly if under-pressure president Josep Maria Bartomeu decides to resign.

But despite calls from fans and rival candidates, there is no suggestion yet that Bartomeu is considering his position.

– ‘ New winning cycle’ –

Bartomeu’s new sporting director Planes, named in place of Eric Abidal a day after Quique Setien was sacked as manager following the Bayern defeat, said on Wednesday that Messi’s want-away demand was “a very important story”.

“But our idea at the club is still to build a new winning cycle around the best player in the world. We are not contemplating any kind of departure because what we want is for Messi to stay.”

Planes added: “You have to have enormous respect for what Messi is and for his history.

“I think the future is positive. I am an optimist. We need experienced players, like Leo Messi… We are putting every effort into ensuring that the relationship between Barca and Messi will continue. We are working internally to convince Leo.”

Planes stressed that there was “not an argument between Messi and Barca — neither deserves it”.

“We are working to make Barca a winner. There is no division within the club over Leo. Anyone who knows football wants him to stay here to win again. He’s a winner.”

– Drastic changes –

Barcelona are understood to believe Messi’s release clause expired in June, and that he remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season.

“In principle, this clause expired on June 10, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now,” wrote Marca newspaper.

“It’s the first step towards opening negotiations over his departure, on the basis of which his release clause amounts to 700 million euros ($828 million).”

Messi joined Barcelona’s youth academy at the age of 13 and made his debut in 2004 as a 17-year-old, before going on to score a club-record 634 goals.

According to Spanish media, Messi met with new manager Ronald Koeman last week and told the Dutchman he currently saw himself “more out than in” at the club.

Koeman has vowed to “fight to put Barca back on top” and said at his unveiling he was hopeful Messi would remain at the club for several more years.

The Lisbon loss to Bayern, Barca’s heaviest in Europe, exposed an ageing team that Messi repeatedly had said was simply not good enough as his relations with the club hierarchy grew increasingly strained.

AFP

Messi Submits Exit Notice To Barcelona

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

 

 

Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona that he wants to “unilaterally” terminate his contract with the Spanish giants, a club source confirmed to AFP on Tuesday.

Lawyers for the Argentina star sent Barca a fax in which they announced Messi’s desire to rescind his contract by triggering a release clause.

However, the club maintains the clause expired in June and he remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season.

“In principial, this clause expired on June 10, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now,” wrote Spanish sports daily Marca.

“It’s the first step towards opening negotiations over his departure, on the basis of which his release clause amounts to 700 million euros.”

 

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi bends over during the Spanish league football match between Real Valladolid FC and FC Barcelona at the Jose Zorrilla stadium in Valladolid on July 11, 2020. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)
File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi bends over during the Spanish league football match between Real Valladolid FC and FC Barcelona at the Jose Zorrilla stadium in Valladolid on July 11, 2020. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

 

According to Spanish media, Messi met with new Barca coach Ronald Koeman last week and told the Dutchman he saw himself “more out than in” the club.

“The end of the glorious era of Leo Messi at Barcelona seems to be close. After the arrival of Ronald Koeman, what looks like the exit of his friend Luis Suarez and a difficult and turbulent end to the season, Messi told Barcelona in a fax of his intention to leave the club,” said Once radio station.

Barcelona suffered a humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in Lisbon earlier this month, resulting in the dismissal of coach Quique Setien after barely six months in charge.

AFP

Barca Have Been ‘Very Inconsistent, Weak,’ Messi Laments As Real Madrid Win La Liga

messi
Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020.
LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

A frustrated Lionel Messi called for change after Barcelona handed the La Liga title to Real Madrid on Thursday, warning the team will lose in the Champions League as well if they fail to improve.

Barca’s title challenge ended with a whimper at Camp Nou, where they were beaten 2-1 by Osasuna while Madrid’s 2-1 victory at home to Villarreal ensured they were crowned Spanish champions.

Defeat increases the pressure on coach Quique Setien, who took over in January with Barcelona sitting top of the table.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has said Setien will remain in charge for the Champions League next month, when Barca play their second leg at home to Napoli, with the last-16 tie in the balance at 1-1.

“The feeling of the team is that it tries but can’t do it, that we leave a lot to be desired in many areas and today in the first half I think they were better than us,” Messi said after the loss to Osasuna.

“I said long ago that if we continued in this way, it would be very difficult to win the Champions League and that has been shown to be the case in La Liga too.

“If we want to fight for the Champions League we will have to change a lot because otherwise the match against Napoli, we will lose that as well.”

Messi scored a brilliant free-kick against Osasuna but it was not enough. Madrid pulled seven points clear of Barcelona ahead of Sunday’s final round of games.

“We didn’t expect or want to finish like this but it almost sums up the whole year,” said Messi. “We have been very inconsistent, very weak, beaten on intensity or desire.

 

messi-
Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi looks downwards during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

 

“They created chances very easily and scored. During the whole year we have been inconsistent and we have lost a lot of points where we shouldn’t have. This game showed what this year has been about for us.”

– ‘We have to be self-critical’ –

Messi has been critical of the board this season and suggested everyone at the club should take their share of the blame.

“After the break Madrid have not lost any games and they deserve credit for that but we have also helped them a lot,” said Messi.

 

Real Madrid’s players celebrate winning La Liga title after the Spanish League football match between against Villarreal CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on July 16, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

“We lost a lot of games that we should not have lost and we have to be self-critical, starting with the players, but it has to be a total self-criticism from everyone because we are Barcelona and we are obliged to win the matches whatever happens and instead look at us.”

If Barcelona come through against Napoli, they will face Bayern Munich in the last eight, with a compressed format of single legs all the way through to the final.

“I think we need a little air, this break will be good for us, to clear our heads, forget about everything that has happened,” said Messi.

“It has been very bad from December until now but it is the Champions League and there are four games that can give you a trophy that we all want. But we have to change a lot and be very self-critical.”

AFP

‘I Can’t Imagine Barcelona Without Messi’ – Dutchman Van Bronckhorst

Messi-hands-up
File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi waves before the 54th Joan Gamper Trophy friendly football match between Barcelona and Arsenal at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 4, 2019. Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Former Barcelona defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst told AFP that he hopes Lionel Messi will finish his career at the Camp Nou, as speculation swirls about the superstar’s future.

Messi is reportedly frustrated with Barcelona’s failure to build a top-notch squad, and tired of purported leaks from the Spanish club which paint him in a bad light.

Radio station Cadena Ser reported last week that the Argentine had broken off negotiations on extending his contract, which runs until 2021, and was thinking of leaving.

READ ALSO: Salah, Vardy, Aubameyang In Hot Race For Topscorer

Dutchman van Bronckhorst, 45, who is now coaching Guangzhou R&F in China, told AFP: “I would love to see him be part of Barcelona for his whole career.

“He’s one of the (few) players to stay his whole career at the same club.

“I admire him as a person and a player and hopefully he will stay there. That’s what I’d love to see.”

Van Bronckhorst left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2003 and won the Champions League in 2006, when a young Messi was already building a fearsome reputation.

“I’ve known him since he was 16 and now he’s 33,” said Van Bronckhorst.

“He’s developed into a great human being, he’s a family man and he’s more than capable of making his own decisions about where his future lies and whether he leaves.

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring his team’s third goal during the UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg football match between Barcelona and Liverpool at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona on May 1, 2019. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

“He will decide himself, but I can’t imagine a Barcelona without him.”

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu this week responded to the storm of speculation by saying that the club had “an obligation” to keep Messi, calling him “the best player in history”.

Messi, who said in February he did not believe Barcelona could win the Champions League on current form, has had regular disagreements with the club’s board.

He reacted publicly when sporting director Eric Abidal appeared to blame the players for the sacking of Ernesto Valverde in January.

He also led the fightback from the Barcelona players over a dispute with the board in March regarding pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

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

Relief For Barca As Messi Ensures Setien Enjoys Winning Start

 

 

Quique Setien may want a different Barcelona but he needed the same old Lionel Messi on Sunday as the Argentinian gave his new coach a winning start with the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Granada.

Messi’s strike in the 76th minute won a cagey contest at the Camp Nou and prevented the much-anticipated launch of Setien’s new era becoming something of a damp squib.

Victory also sends Barca back to the top of La Liga on goal difference, after Real Madrid had briefly claimed first place following their win over Sevilla on Saturday.

It would have been different if Granada’s Yan Eteki hadn’t struck the post with just over 20 minutes left or their central defender German Sanchez not been sent off for a needless second yellow card soon after.

The extra man was the boost Barca needed and Messi duly poked home his 17th goal in 21 games this season following good work by Arturo Vidal, Antoine Griezmann and the 20-year-old Riqui Puig.

All three had reasons to impress, particularly Puig, whose inclusion on the bench was an early indication of Setien’s belief in youth. Puig’s contribution after coming on should mean more opportunities are to come.

Setien said last week that if he could make one guarantee, it was that Barcelona would play good football while he is in charge and although few could argue this was a transformative display following the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, there were certainly some encouraging signs.

The passing was faster, the pressing higher and Messi spent most of the match playing down the middle, with Griezmann on the left and Ansu Fati, another youngster, on the right.

Slick Barca dominate

Setien claimed on Saturday he would never go home happy after winning and playing badly but a 1-0 victory gets his tenure off to a positive start and, with Real Madrid showing no sign of stuttering, he could hardly afford anything less.

His team had 83 per cent possession in the first half but chances were not as clear-cut and, as it was under Valverde, nearly everything went through Messi.

His driving run teed up Fati, who shot over, and then a cutting reverse pass set Alba away but Fati failed to finish at the back post.

Messi won the ball back on the ground and then nipped past two players. He flashed wide at the end of a fluid team move and missed from two free-kicks.

Barca were slick, evidently trying to pass faster and press with more aggression. Messi and Sergio Busquets chased and Griezmann did too, at one point earning the approval of the home fans after sprinting to provide cover at right-back.

Vidal has always harried and when he won the ball back early in the second half, Barca had a four against two. But Messi’s pass was heavy and the angle for Vidal became too acute.

The game drifted and tension grew but two moments proved crucial. First Eteki’s shot was kept out only by the post as he drove hard past the right hand of Ter Stegen.

Then, less than five minutes later, Granada were reduced to 10 men after German picked up a second yellow card for a late hack on Messi. It left Granada needing to survive 21 minutes and they only made it through eight.

Puig, on for Ivan Rakitic, recovered possession in the corner before Messi picked up the ball centrally. In a flash, he played in Griezmann, who found Vidal, whose swivelled a flick back into the path of Messi and he poked a finish into the corner.

Setien threw both arms into the air and looked to the sky, with joy and also relief.

Full List Of 2019 Ballon D’Or Winners

Former Ivorian forward Didier Drogba (L) and French English tv host Sandy Heribert host the Ballon d’Or France Football 2019 ceremony at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris on December 2, 2019.
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

The winners and other top finishers in the four trophies awarded at the 2019 Ballon d’Or ceremony on Monday in Paris:

Men’s Ballon d’Or

  1. Lionel Messi (ARG/Barcelona)
  2. Virgil van Dijk (NED/Liverpool)
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo (POR/Juventus)
  4. Sadio Mane (SEN/Liverpool)
  5. Mohamed Salah (EGY/Liverpool)
  6. Kylian Mbappe (FRA/PSG)
  7. Alisson Becker (BRA/Liverpool)
  8. Robert Lewandowski (POL/Bayern Munich)
  9. Bernardo Silva (POR/Manchester City)
  10. Riyad Mahrez (ALG/Manchester City)

Women’s Ballon d’Or

  1. Megan Rapinoe (USA/Reign FC)
  2. Lucy Bronze (ENG/Lyon)
  3. Alex Morgan (USA/Orlando Pride)
  4. Ada Hegerberg (NOR/Lyon)
  5. Viviane Miedema (NED/Arsenal)
  6. Wendie Renard (FRA/Lyon)
  7. Sam Kerr (AUS/Chicago Red Stars)
  8. Rose Lavelle (USA/Washington Spirit)
  9. Ellen White (ENG/Manchester City)
  10. Dzsenifer Marozsan (GER/Lyon)

READ ALSO: De Ligt Wins Young Player Gong At Ballon D’or Awards

Kopa Trophy

(Best player under 21 on December 31)

  1. Matthijs de Ligt (NED/Ajax Amsterdam then Juventus)
  2. Jadon Sancho (ENG/Borussia Dortmund)
  3. Joao Felix (POR/Benfica then Atletico Madrid)

Yashin Trophy

(Best goalkeeper, presented for the first time)

  1. Alisson Becker (BRA/Liverpool)
  2. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (GER/FC Barcelona)
  3. Ederson (BRA/Manchester City)

AFP