Senior members of Barcelona’s squad met with Lionel Messi on Wednesday to discuss the Argentine’s dissatisfaction with coach Luis Enrique, hoping to prevent their bust-up undermining the club’s bid for trophies.
Luis Enrique has found himself in the spotlight as the Catalan club struggles to keep pace with Real Madrid and his future could hinge on whether he can patch up his differences with the talismanic Messi.
Xavi and other influential players met Messi before training in an attempt to smooth the waters.
There is no real surprise though that the situation has come to a head considering the domineering style of Luis Enrique and the way Messi, as Barca’s most influential player, has been used to receiving privileges.
When former coach Pep Guardiola was in charge he resigned himself to allowing Messi to play virtually every match having faced the ire of the Argentine when he tried to rest him.
Other coaches similarly have concentrated on being pacifiers, notably Messi’s fellow countryman Tata Martino last season who was quick to defend the player when his form dropped and he appeared to lack interest.
Messi has developed from an innocent teenager at Barcelona who was simply happy to play the game to a calculating senior professional who knows his value to the club.
The four-times World Player of the Year is believed to be unhappy with the no-nonsense style of Luis Enrique and his tactics this season.
Barca are second in La Liga, a point behind Real Madrid who have a game in hand. While still in a good position the team has failed to function smoothly and too often relied on individual talent to get them out of trouble.
Messi’s conflict with Luis Enrique stepped up a level last Friday when they are reported to have almost come to blows during a training session and then the player was angry at being left out of the starting lineup two days later for the clash with Real Sociedad.
The player had only returned on Friday from his Christmas break in Argentina and the coach felt that he was not ready.
The decision to leave him and Neymar on the bench backfired with the team losing 1-0 and there is believed to have been another heated exchange between the pair in the dressing room after the match.
On Monday, Messi failed to attend a training session open to the public and a festive hospital visit to see sick children due to illness.
On the same day he started following Chelsea on social media site Instagram, fuelling rumours over his future.