Another day, another new crisis at Barcelona.
The Catalan club was stunned by Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals on Thursday, being eliminated by Iñaki Williams’ stoppage time winner at the San Mamés.
The defeat follows Lionel Messi’s public war of words with sporting director and former teammate Eric Abidal, which forced club president Josep Bartomeu to request an emergency meeting with the pair on Wednesday evening.
Messi was incensed by Abidal’s accusation that players had downed tools to get former manager Ernesto Valverde sacked. His response? To name the players or be quiet.
According the reports in Spain, the Argentine has a clause in his contract — which runs out in 2021 — that allows him to leave Barcelona for free this summer, as long as he informs the club by May.
So rarely does the 32-year-old air his grievances in public; it felt as though Abidal’s comments were the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Barcelona’s full-back Jordi Alba came out in defense of his captain following the shock defeat to Bilbao.
“Abidal was a player, he’s not an outsider, he has to know how a player feels in the locker room,” the Spaniard told newspaper Sport. “Those of us who are facing the music are the players and coaching staff.
“We already get enough st thrown at us from the outside, so we shouldn’t be throwing st at ourselves. We should all be helping each other.”
For years, Messi, regarded by many as the greatest of all time, has been the glue that has held a crumbling Barcelona together — both on the pitch and in the boardroom.