The Blaugrana’s former sporting director, who was once a team-mate of the iconic Argentine, is waiting to see how a long-running saga plays out
Lionel Messi is yet to commit to a new contract at Barcelona, but Eric Abidal is not convinced that there would be “something better” for the iconic Argentine away from Camp Nou.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner continues to head towards free agency in Catalunya and will be making no decision on his future until the 2020-21 campaign comes to a close.
Abidal, a former team-mate of the mercurial Argentine, is among those keeping a close eye on a long-running saga and is eager to see how it plays out after several months of intense speculation.
What has been said?
Abidal told The Telegraph when quizzed on Messi’s plans: “I think, if we are to talk about performance, he’s the best player ever and he played his full career in Barcelona, so for that it is important to stay because he’s the key player.
“But, as well, his idea will depend on the rest of the squad, the new project, the new ideas of the new board and their ideas for the coach, for example. And if, in the end, he can feel comfortable in this.
“From a marketing point a view also, Messi gives you so much so he is an unbelievable asset. But it will be his decision and it’s not easy when you spend many, many years in the same club, sometimes you want to see something else. But will there be something better than Barcelona for him? I don’t know.”
Is Abidal still close to Messi?
The Frenchman is well placed to offer an opinion on goings on at Camp Nou, having spent six years with Barca as a player.
He returned to fill a sporting director post after hanging up his boots and was only relieved of those duties at the end of a testing 2019-20 campaign for the Blaugrana.
Abidal claims to still boast a positive relationship with Messi, with several major honours secured together, but he did incur the South American’s wrath in early 2020 when speaking out in public to demand more effort from a squad that was struggling to find a spark under Quique Setien.
Asked about that incident and the fallout which saw Messi demand that Abidal reveal the identity of those he was directing contentious comments at, a popular figure in Catalunya said: “I think I was correct.
“They needed to train harder in my opinion. In my time with [Pep] Guardiola, it was ‘you want the best? Ok, you have to train like the best. You will win everything, only if you do the job during the week’. This is what I said. I never said the players wanted to get rid of the coach.
“Messi spoke to me personally as well. We had a strong conversation, but I can accept it. No problem because you have to be transparent. I was very comfortable because he was the only player who talked to me like this, the only one. I respect that. I also understand Messi is the captain and he wanted to defend the squad, but I never said that Messi told me to put the coach out. Never.
“I don’t have to fix anything with Messi, our relationship has not changed from my point of view. From his point of view, I don’t know, but, for me, the situation is over. We have exchanged many messages and he knows what I think. I didn’t want to turn a small situation into a global situation and put the whole club in trouble.”