On Tuesday Eric Abidal, the former French and Barcelona player and now the sporting director of Catalan Club, said in an interview with Diario Sport, “I watched the games and didn’t look at the result. But I looked at how the games were played, the tactics and the work of the players who didn’t play much”.

“I looked at those details”.

“Many players were not satisfied or weren’t working hard and there was also an internal communication issue”.

“The coach and dressing room relationship has always been good, but there are things that I can smell as a former player”.

“I told the club what I thought and they had to make a decision”.

Valverde was dismissed in mid-January, though Abidal explained that the operation was in the works for about a month.

“It was a club decision”, Abidal explained.

“But we already saw that the problem was internal”.

“It’s never easy to make these decisions, but after El Clasico, on December 18 we began to specify things surrounding his departure”.

Abidal’s dissatisfaction with some of the players behind the sacking of Valverde could be guessed and his controversial interview did not charm the Barcelona star Lionel Messi at all, who responded by saying, “When you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it gives air to things which are not true”.

Messi then posted on social media: “Sincerely, I don’t like to do these things but I think that people have to be responsible for their jobs and own their decisions”.

“The players [are responsible] for what happens on the pitch and we are the first to admit when we haven’t been good. The heads of the sports department have to take their responsibilities too and, above all, own the decisions they make”.

In addition to the dismal displays for a while by Barcelona, the Abidal and Messi throwing stones at each other have led to a new crisis in Camp Nou. In fact, such kind of a crisis was bound to develop and when a team starts to crumble under pressure more often, the very fibre and fabric, which binds the team together start to loosen up and reaches a point when such war of words crop up – a common scenario with all big teams, when they frustrate continuously.

Time and again, opponents have knocked out Barcelona when it mattered the most – Paris Saint-Germain beat them 4-0 in the first leg of their last-16 tie in 2017, and Juventus thumped them 3-0 in the following round. Roma and Liverpool have been able to overcome three-goal deficits against them, how even an ordinary Chelsea made them look vulnerable at Stamford Bridge in 2018, even though the game finished 1-1.

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Consistent failures don’t happen without a reason and one of the most important reasons could be Barcelona’s midfield, which has shown signs of slowing down and unable to win the ball and resist the pressure during counter-attacks. They create gaps and leave the defence under pressure, which the opponents exploited more often in knockout stages of Champions League and La Liga.

Then there is that Messi factor, who receives all the accolades no matter whatever he does, but such hype created by the media cannot just mask the fact that he is slowing down than before – the team is built keeping in mind what Messi requires rather than what the team requires the most. Such a ploy has not only hampered the evolution of Barcelona but Argentina’s as well.

Messi can’t be blamed here as he is one hell of a gem who comes once in a generation and at times brilliance can be problematic if the genius himself does not understand it is more about the team than personal comfort.

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We are talking about the Messi of 2020 and not ten years ago, who had Xavi, Iniesta, Dani Alves, Neymar, etc around him to lessen the pressure. And again, that Messi was faster than today. This Messi has slowed down and needs to get deeper rather than trying play up front – Diego Maradona sacrificed his role up front and joined midfield and even deeper to lead from behind.

Whatever Barcelona won had been largely either due to an individual brilliance of Messi or Suarez – who had been absolutely brilliant since Neymar left.

The problems are there and war of words would not help until and unless the midfield is fixed and how to fix Messi in the right system is sorted out.


Right now, all is not well in Barcelona.

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