Since being left out of the Barcelona starting line up for their 1-0 loss to Sociedad on Monday night, Lionel Messi has covered the pages of dailies across the globe. Rumours that the star player and the manager have fallen out have been rife and today, Enrique has even admitted that the Argentine magician may no longer be happy at Camp Nou. John Murphy writes that if this is to be a game of ‘him or me’… there will only be one winner.
Imagine if you will, Lionel Messi, at home in his gigantic mansion. Maybe he’s wearing a pink dressing gown and holding a mocha frappuccino. Maybe he’s smoking a cigar and carrying a Persian cat. It doesn’t matter. He’s at home, wearing whatever, and he is sitting at his computer. He clicks a few words or characters into his…let’s say Bing, search engine (because Messi is a bit funky like that) and then, there he is, ChelseaFC on Instagram. He pauses, he takes another sip of his mocha and gives the cat another stroke and then, he executes his nuclear strike. Click.
‘LeoMessi follows ChelseaFC’.
Dramatic and all as that may seem (and dramatized as it clearly is), it is certainly interesting to think of that side of the past few days. The human side. Why did Lionel Messi intentionally go and do something that he knew would cause such a…well, sh*t storm? Did he think that no one would notice? No. Did he think it would have a positive effect for his club and his manager? Surely not. Did he consider the timing to be appropriate? If the stories emanating from within the Barcelona camp are to be believed, then absolutely. His timing was immaculate.
The context here is paramount when considering the Argentine’s behaviour. Reports in the press over the past few days spoke of a training ground bust up that nearly ended in blows between the pair. Enrique refused to award Messi a free kick after what the Argentine perceived to be a blatant foul and Neymar ended up having to separate the two.
Other stories, reported in Spanish daily Sport claim that Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets had to sit the manager down to talk him out of fining Messi for what the manager believed to be a fake illness. Messi missed a training session claiming a bout of gastroenteritis. Enrique wasn’t convinced and decided to make an unfounded accusation only to withdraw after other senior players informed him that the situation (his position) would become untenable should he pursue his current agenda with Messi.
But the damage had been done. Today, Luis Enrique could only respond with a rather lame and concerning answer when pressed by journalists regarding Messi’s current state of mind at the club. “At your presentation you said Messi was delighted at Barça, is this still true?” he was asked.
“I don’t want to comment. We know things change and a month is a long time. Things have changed but it is up to you to speak to the parties involved. I am as happy as ever here, happier even.”
Well, Luis to be frank no one cares how happy you are. What they do care about is arguably the best player of all time, and factually the best player in the history of Barcelona football club.
This is the point that Enrique seems to be missing. In a normal situation, yes, the coach is always more important than the players. But in this situation, Enrique vs Messi is like Djemba Djemba vs Sir Alex Ferguson. There’s only going to be one winner.
I started this piece talking about Messi, a Persian cat and something about context. The context is that there is at present an all out feud between the Barcelona manager and the greatest player La Masia has ever produced. Considering this feud, Messi’s little like on instagram wasn’t innocent. It was a power play. It was a gentle sounding of an alarm bell to the Barcelona board. “Look what your boy is making me do. I’m not happy. Get rid of him immediately or I will start flashing some leg to Jose and whoever else wants a piece.”
Lionel wants Luis gone. It is written in stone and unless the stubborn manager is willing to do some grovelling, one can expect his tenure to be over sooner rather than later.