Lionel Messi: Eric Abidal to keep Barcelona sporting director role despite criticism

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February 6, 2020
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    Lionel Messi and Eric Abidal

    Eric Abidal (right) and Lionel Messi played together at Barcelona between 2007 and 2013, with the Frenchman returning to the club after retirement to become sporting director in June 2018

    Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal is to keep his job at the club despite being criticised by star forward Lionel Messi.

    Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi spoke out against Abidal after he had said players were not working hard under former coach Ernesto Valverde.

    Valverde was sacked in January and replaced by Quique Setien.

    Barcelona called an emergency meeting with ex-France defender Abidal on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

    After two hours of talks, it was decided the 40-year-old would remain in his role at the Nou Camp.

    Abidal, a former team-mate of Messi, made the comments in an interview with Spanish newspaper Diario Sport.

    But on Tuesday, 32-year-old Argentine Messi responded: “When you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it gives air to things which are not true.”

    Valverde was sacked when Barcelona were top of La Liga.

    In the newspaper interview, Abidal said: “Many players weren’t satisfied or working hard and there was also an internal communication problem.

    “The relationship between the coach and the dressing room has always been good, but there are things as an ex-player that I could smell. I told the club what I thought and we reached a decision [on Valverde].”

    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.

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    “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 his interview with Diario Sport, Abidal also said he thought Messi was happy at the club and that a new contract for the Argentine was being negotiated.


    BBC Radio 5 Live Spanish football expert Guillem Balague

    Barcelona had a difficult winter transfer window. They realised they needed a striker but, for different reasons, they couldn’t get one.

    With that in mind, and against the background of the sacking of the manager, there was a need for an explanation for what was going on – so the club forced Abidal to do an interview with two Catalan newspapers and he was extremely open.

    It was the Sport one in particular that got Messi upset because Abidal suggested that the players were not happy under Valverde and did not work hard enough. It was suggested that it was the players who got him sacked.

    In fact, Messi and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen – another key player – actually backed Valverde, even though everybody realised that at some point a change was necessary because the dynamic was not positive and the club was looking for a replacement.

    Messi responded very quickly to Abidal’s interview because he felt the finger of blame was being pointed at him.

    I think Messi is fed up by the accusations he dictates everything that happens at the club. He wanted Neymar to return and Valverde to stay, and those things did not happen.

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    His message was a way of pointing out that everyone at the club has to do their job better.

    The chairman has spoken to Abidal and Messi to calm things down and say take it easy.


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    February 6, 2020
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