Lionel Messi is eager to continue plying his trade at Barcelona but recognizes the current season isn’t going to plan.
The Argentine superstar admitted it’s been one problem after another for the Blaugrana over the last month. Technical director Eric Abidal’s polarizing comments over certain players’ work ethic was followed by a report that stated the club employed an agency to create social media accounts to criticize players while defending team president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Despite the controversy, Messi insisted he has no intention of leaving Barcelona during an interview with Cristina Cubero and Fernando Polo of El Mundo Deportivo.
“I have said lots of times that my idea is (to never leave Barcelona), and as long as the club wants it, there won’t ever be a problem,” Messi said, as translated by Sid Lowe of the Guardian. “Many times, I’ve had the chance to leave the club, there have been lots of clubs interested, clubs prepared to pay the buyout clause, but it never occurred to me to leave and it doesn’t now either.
“(But) I have also said many times that I would like the club to be in good shape, for the fans to be happy with the team we have, for there to be a winning project, and for us to continue being candidates to win trophies like we always were.”
Messi added he was hurt by Abidal’s comments and explained why he decided to publicly call him out in early February.
“I don’t know what went through his head to say that,” Messi said. “I responded because I felt attacked. I felt that he was attacking the players. Too many things are already said about the dressing room, like that we control everything, that we choose the players and (what happens to) the coaches; and (it’s said) about me especially, that I have lots of power and decide things.”
Messi is pessimistic about Barcelona’s chances of hoisting the Champions League trophy in May. The 32-year-old wants to see more consistency under new manager Quique Setien in order to leapfrog Real Madrid, who hold a one-point edge atop the La Liga table with 14 matches remaining.
“People are nervous,” the six-time Ballon d’Or winner said, “but that’s normal because of everything we have experienced recently and because the team isn’t playing well either. The league is very up and down, we’re inconsistent and Madrid are too; a lot of points are being dropped, and I think we will be there. Then, it’s true that in the Champions League we have to keep growing, and a lot too, because the way we are right now, I don’t think it’s enough to win the Champions League.
“We have to be more consistent in our play, take on board all the new things that we’re doing (with Setien) and put them into practice as soon as possible, be more reliable, not make so many stupid mistakes. … What we need is calm, to be able to think about football.”
Barcelona host Eibar on Saturday in a domestic affair before traveling to Italy for a Champions League round of 16 encounter against Napoli on Tuesday. They were handed a boost Thursday with the addition of Martin Braithwaite, who was signed to replace the injured Ousmane Dembele after the Catalan outfit received permission from La Liga to register a player outside of the January transfer window.