The public spat between Barcelona general manager Eric Abidal and the club’s star performer, Lionel Messi, has highlighted the difficulties the club finds itself in.
Although they are second in La Liga and made the knock-out stages of the Champions League and on Thursday night were involved in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey, which they lost to Athletic Bilbao, things are not going well.
Frank Rijkaardand and Pep Guardiola were the last coaches who had lengthy spells with the club, staying five and four years respectively.
Since then, Tito Vilanova (one year), Gerardo Martino (one year) and Ernesto Valverde (two and a half years) have all tried to steer Barça into calmer waters but have, in essence, failed.
In between there was Luis Enrique (three years), who managed to win two league titles, three domestic cups, the Champions League, the Club World Cup and some other minor competitions.
As a former player of the club, the fans stood behind him and the club was successful. But the former attacking player resigned in 2017 after guiding the club to the league title, saying he “needed a rest”.
The club turned to Valverde, but even though he did win back-to-back league titles, he struggled for full acceptance and his dismissal last month did not really come as that huge a surprise.
But if officials had hoped that the appointment of Quique Setién would calm things down they were wrong and the public spat between Abidal and Messi brought things to the surface.
Lots of players were not satisfied and nor did they work much.
During an interview on Tuesday night the former French international said that Messi would be renewing his contract and was very happy at the club.
So far, so good.
However, he also added that some of the players had been “unsatisfied” with Valverde, implying that they had contributed to his sacking. He went on to say that they did not “work much”.
That was too much for Messi who, in an Instagram post (which appears to have been removed), used Valverde’s quote: “Lots of players were not satisfied and nor did they work much.”
He put a red circle around the quote, accused Abidal of “dirtying” the players and asked him to name names.
The Instagram post, which has been removed. Picture: Goal.com
Needless to say, the Instagram post caused quite an uproar, with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu seeking an urgent meeting with the two. After the meeting it was announced that Abidal would be staying.
However, it is unlikely that the story will end there.
The fact that Messi made his criticism public is important. The fact that the club did not immediately take his side is important and the fact that Abidal made the statement in the first place is important.
But given the state of Barcelona at the moment, it is unclear just how important all of these are and – more importantly – it is unclear what will follow.