Strong rumours have emerged that Lionel Messi is unhappy with the way he is being treated by the Barcelona board. Personal attacks from the directives, through leaks to the media, and a failing in building a competitive squad are just some of the issues. The next club elections could very well determine if the Argentine stays in Catalonia.
Lionel Messi has gifted culés everywhere some of the greatest moments in the clubs 120 years of existence. Without a doubt, Leo is the best player to ever put on the Barҫa jersey. He has blessed fans with some incredible individual displays and driven the team to many trophies. Messi has been the main protagonist in the club’s most successful period since it was first established. His loyalty and love for FC Barcelona is more than any fan could ask for.
However, has the captain received the same devotion and standard in return, particularly from the board, in recent years? More and more it seems up to the six times Ballon d’Or winner to carry an ageing and less competitive squad. Off the pitch too, Lionel Messi has to battle a manipulative and clueless board as they drag Barcelona further and further down.
Issues with the squad
In recent seasons the squad planning has been poorly executed by those in charge of that area. A lack of depth, players signed that end up playing out of position or simply are not at the standard for Barcelona have limited the team. Many of the squads have been, at times, underwhelming. The managers have often struggled to get the best out of the players.
Furthermore, the lack of depth has seen the team tire towards the end of the season. Therefore, this has seen a decline in performances at crucial times. There is no question that money has been invested in the team, but it has been done so recklessly. Much of this has been hidden by Leo as he has put in outstanding performances consistently.
There must also be questions asked over the form of some of the senior players too. Performances have dropped for a number of key players over the last couple of seasons. A regular starting role, no matter their form, and a lack of competition for places could have led some to becoming too complacent. Players could be accused of not stepping up at crucial times and not pulling their weight.
It is unlikely that these would be the reasons for the Argentine’s desire to leave. Leo is very loyal to his teammates and has shown before that he supports them. Against Villarreal on Sunday they were in fantastic form. Messi – the conductor – was allowed to conduct, and not have to play half the instruments as well. Everyone stepped up and fulfilled their role in the team. It was a joy to watch and the Barҫa captain did not have to carry the team almost single handily. A giant step in the right direction.
The obvious problem at the club is the current board. Rumours of Leo wanting to leave all stem from the discontent towards the club’s hierarchy. The board has created divisions in the club and an unhappy atmosphere at Barcelona, resulting in the dissatisfaction from Lionel Messi. First, consultancy firm I3 Ventures was hired to attack many current players, Barҫa legends, their families and opposing candidates. It undoubtedly is a disgrace to see a club of this stature and size being involved in a scandal like this.
Messi also had to come out and defend his teammates after sporting director Éric Abidal tried to pass the team’s failings onto the footballers. The board are unwilling to accept the fact that they are to blame for any of it. Instead, they look to shift the negativity elsewhere as they only think about balancing the books and looking good for the next elections.
“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”
on the sacking of manager Ernesto Valverde
There was also the issue of the wage cuts due to the global pandemic. The players were asked to take significant pay cuts as the club tried to reduce outgoings in a time of economic uncertainty. The board leaked to the press that the Barcelona players were unwilling to do so and there was some conspiracy against Lionel Messi. Again, Messi had to address this and set the record straight. He conversed that the team was always willing to take the pay cut and help the club.
“Our desire has always been for a reduction to be applied to our salaries because we understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are the first that have always helped the club with what they have asked of us.
For that reason, it doesn’t cease to surprise us that from inside the club there would be people that want to put us under a magnifying glass or try to pressure us into something that we were always clear we wanted to do”
on the pay cut for the coronavirus crisis
There has been countless other misinformation and lies spread by the board in an attempt to cover its reputation. Culés must remember this and always trust the players over the deceitful board. After everything that Messi has done for the club, it is his own board that look to sabotage his reputation. He has every right to consider his future if this continues.
Though rumours of Lionel Messi wanting to leave Barcelona are still just rumours, there is enough reason for them to be true: the mistreatment from the board has been shocking. They have built questionable teams around him and look to slander his reputation.
Messi deserves a lot better. If Bartomeu’s reign comes to an end, then it is almost certain that Leo will continue his life in Catalonia. Nevertheless, it would be a worry if this board continued on past the 2021 elections.
A history of crumbling under pressure: The Jordi Alba conundrum in a big game
Claiming Jordi Alba to be one of La Liga’s – if not Europe’s – most improved players from last season would not be a far fetch. While on his best days, his quality has always been evident, and his raiding runs on the left flank tend to give the Blaugranas a huge edge, the Spanish international’s output in the final third has lately begun to revolve around sensible plays, with visible improvements in Alba’s decision making; most notably refraining from relying on the formularized ‘Messi cut-back.’
The marauding speedster has become a crucial cog in Koeman’s side as the newfound 3-5-2/3-4-3 formation arguably seems to extract his best qualities and conceals his most noticeable flaws. The Spaniard is considered lethal, and a vital source of penetration situated higher up the field. With slick spells of possession in the centre, his runs from wide are almost gone unnoticed.
However, in spite of Alba’s achievements thus far and enhancements in his gameplay, issues that have tainted the talented Spaniard’s career still prove to be a thorn in his side, overcoming him in arguably the worst moments. Big games and Jordi Alba appear to have developed an incredibly toxic relationship as the 32-year-old has, on countless occasions, been a victim of his feeble mindset, tarnishing his legacy in the process.
The Copa del Rey final will once more be a huge encounter with a crucial source of silverware on the line for the Blaugranas. A win will undoubtedly elevate their status, uplift the morale of the team and surely prove to be their saving grace this season. Unfortunately, a game of this magnitude is also the perfect breeding ground for Alba’s antics. As promising as his season may have been, he has still proven to be unreliable in pressure situations.
Blitzing forward, he is known to be a menace, but in the defensive third, poor decision making is often visible. In the recent Clásico, Alba’s assist for Mingueza may have overshadowed his lack of focus defensively, but it must not be forgotten that he was a major reason why Fede Valverde was able to comfortably cruise past the Barcelona midfield and provide Benzema with the pre-assist. After enjoying one of the best patches of his career, Alba fell prey to the big game syndrome on the night it mattered most.
While that defeat was not entirely the number 18’s fault, it was a testament to his habitual blunders. In the Spanish Supercup final against Athletic Bilbao, Alba was once again one of the major culprits, proving to be undependable in set pieces and as confused as a lost sailor in defence, suffering at the hands of Iñaki Williams most notably. Scoring an own goal against the very same opposition in the league was another dent on his resumé. The fact that Alba contributed heavily to Valencia’s Copa Del Rey victory in the 18/19 season also devalues his presence in critical games, with both goals from Valencia easily avoidable, had the Spaniard not fumbled cheaply.
For the first goal, Alba came instantly rushing to block the scorer but was sent to the cleaners as he gravely mistimed his run. On the second occasion, the 32-year-old enabled Valencia’s winger to charge past him seamlessly as he went onto assist the final dagger. Admittedly, Culés have done their best to move on from the past in an attempt to forget and forgive. Having made some huge strides this campaign, clinging on to errors that any mere mortal is capable of committing does seem nonsensical.
Even so, despite efforts made to channel more faith in Alba, his recent comments have only made matters worse. As a leaked conversation between Alba and Piqué was made public by the media after the Clásico, concerns are again beginning to mount over his mentality. Even though Piqué appeared to be optimistic regarding Barça’s chances in the Copa Del Rey, all Alba had to offer in response was, “I don’t know.”
Completely ignoring the progression Barcelona made after proceedings, disregarding the fact that a point is the least Barça deserved, and most importantly, forgetting the club’s ability to bounce back this season, a meagre “I don’t know” is all the full-back gave in response. Of course, drawing conclusions based solely on a 10-second clip would be unjust, yet, given Alba’s past of wavering when it matters most, it really does not come as a surprise. The Anfield annihilation still remains fresh in memory, a wound that is yet to heal fully.
To play or not play, that is the question
As the full-back made a mockery of himself under the lights, his breakdown at half-time when the comeback was not even completed simply implies his pessimistic nature. Thus arrives the million-dollar question: do Barcelona run the risk of playing Alba in a game where the stakes are this high?
Considering Alba’s recent comments and reputation in knockout stages, fielding him in a game that holds such value for Barça’s campaign is inarguably a risk. The brand of football Barcelona have been playing comprises of collective strength, which emphasizes on every individual playing a vital role. One loose screw is all it takes to disrupt the team, and it’s fair to say Alba has proven to be that loose screw on several occasions before.
Nonetheless, the Blaugranas are incredibly limited, not yet possessing the privilege to have any firm competition in Alba’s position. As frustrating as his shortcomings may be, there is still no denying that his “good days” earn him the title of one of the best full-backs in the world. An additional factor is that he has, at the very least, not crumbled in any of the previous Copa del Rey knockout stages. Against Granada and Sevilla, his contributions were absolutely vital, particularly his performance against the Nazaríes, where a blistering brace enabled his side to seal qualification.
Barça are certainly running a risk, but this risk could potentially pay dividends if Alba shows a more daring and composed version. Making a sudden change in the final seems unlikely and could potentially hamper the team’s harmony.