Football

Barcelona coach refuses to get involved in Messi-Abidal row

Barcelona coach Quique Setien said on Wednesday (Feb 5) he would not interfere in “Lionel Messi’s life”, after the Argentine superstar became entangled in a row with the club’s sporting director Eric Abidal.

Messi hit back at Abidal on Tuesday after the Frenchman had earlier blamed slackness in the dressing room for the departure of recently fired coach Ernesto Valverde.

In an interview with Spanish newspaper Sport, Abidal said under Valverde, who was sacked in mid-January, many players had been unhappy, had not worked hard enough and had not communicated properly.

“I’m not going to get into Messi’s life, or anyone’s life,” said Setien, who replaced Valverde.

“What interests me is football, everything else are situations that I will not be able to control, therefore I do not sweat on it.”

Setien denied he had spoken individually to the Argentina international about the incident, but said it had been briefly discussed in a training session by the squad.

Messi signed his last contract extension in 2017, with his current deal running through to next year but reportedly containing a clause that could allow him to quit the Catalan side  in June.

Former Real Betis boss Setien said Messi’s behaviour remained the same despite the falling out with Abidal.

“I have seen him smiling, I have seen him looking happy, he loves to come to training, he loves to be here and I have seen him just like he was yesterday or the day before yesterday,” the 61-year-old said.

Setien said his only focus was Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final tie at Athletic Bilbao.

“The importance of tomorrow’s match, the obligation we have is to focus totally and absolutely on the match,” he said.

Spanish media reported later on Wednesday, citing sources close to the club, that Abidal had met with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu who would no longer consider, as speculated beforehand, to demand the Frenchman’s resignation.

Messi on Tuesday criticised Abidal’s comments, saying that his former teammate should “name names”.

“Sincerely, I don’t like to do these things, but people have to be responsible for their jobs and own their decisions,” Messi wrote on Instagram.

“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.

“Finally, when you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it makes everyone dirty and gives air to things that are said which are not true.”

Barcelona visit Real Betis on Sunday in La Liga, where they trail leaders Real Madrid by three points. – AFP, REUTERS

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