Barcelona captain Lionel Messi and goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen were reportedly involved in a heated exchange at the end of a training session. According to reports, the two players squared up to each other but were restrained by other players who calmed the situation down.
According to El Pais, the clash between two teammates was as a result of bottled tension since the sack of former manager Ernesto Valverde in January. The report added that this has created some divisions in the dressing room. Also, the winter departures of some players and lack of adequate replacement brought in made it worse.
Some senior players have also accused others of dropping their game level under Valverde which led to the exit of the Spaniard. These players are not happy because they believed in the former coach who had won two league titles in two seasons and had the side top of the table.
The report also noted that the players have stopped observing their traditional pre-match huddle in their warm-up at the end of every warm-up. Team captains, Lionel Messi and Gerrard Piqué usually encourage and motivate the team during this huddle ahead of any game.
However, Messi refused to get involved in the tradition in order to show his frustration towards Josep Maria Bartomeu-led board. Video on social media showed that the Argentine exchanged words with Pique after he was confronted for not participating in the huddle. He instead walked straight down the tunnel.
The crisis in Barcelona reached another level on Tuesday when the club’s sporting director Eric Abidal claimed that some Barca players were no satisfied with the former coach Ernesto Valverde’s work ethics. He added that there was also a communication issue between the Spaniard and the players.
According to Abidal, a former team-mate of Messi, some players were unhappy with Valverde’s methods and this led to the Catalan giants’ struggle this season. Abidal said he made his feelings known to the board and clearly felt a change was needed which led to the exit of the manager.
However, Messi hit out at Abidal for suggesting that the players were responsible for the sack of the former manager. The club captain also asked Abidal to “give names” of players that underperformed. He insisted that each member of the football club must be responsible for their tasks and take care of their decisions.
Barca president Bartomeu was then forced to call an urgent meeting with Abidal to discuss his future following the public bust-up. The cub chief knows that Messi has a clause in his contract which enables him to terminate his deal at the end of any season.