Barcelona in turmoil trying to make up for Messi’s lost time

METRO PLUS

How police, other security agencies foiled abduction of 4 Plateau varsity students

Nigerian Security Agencies have prevented the abduction of about four students of the Plateau State University in Bokkos Local Government Area of...

Father kills 18-year-old son in Kano over missing palm oil

A resident of the Gwazaye Quarter in the Kumbotso Local Government Area of Kano State, Awaisu Nagyala, has allegedly beaten his 18-year-old...

Security guard invites robbers to rob employer

The Ondo State Police Command has arrested a security guard working at the S.A. Filling Station in Ondo town, Abiodun Osuntimehin, for...

Three killed as robbers attack bank in Delta

Armed robbers on Tuesday reportedly killed three persons when they attacked a bank in the Issele-Uku, Aniocha North Local Governments Area of...

Kidnapping: Court laments delay in Evans trial

Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of an Ikeja Special Offences Court has expressed worries over the delay in the trial of Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, popularly...

Lionel Messi admitted in December he could soon retire but Barcelona’s frenzied attempts to make the most of his final years appear to be having the opposite effect.

As Athletic Bilbao’s players celebrated Inaki Williams’ 94th-minute winner at San Mames on Thursday night, Messi stood still in the centre circle, hands on his hips and staring down at the ground in front.

He had missed a chance to win it, his shot saved by Unai Simon, just moments before Williams’ flicked header crept inside the post to send Barca out of the Copa del Rey before the semi-finals for the first time in 10 years.

Messi has been the inspiration and saviour of this Barcelona team, his fingerprints on their string of La Liga titles more than anyone else’s.

But as Bilbao proved, when Messi misses, Barca are there to be hit, their insecurities knew and ready to be exposed.

The political turmoil now engulfing the club stems in part from desperation, not to waste Messi’s final years or at least to be seen to be trying to make the best of them.

He will be 33 in June and said at the Ballon d’Or presentation retirement was “approaching” but a sense of time running out haa long-lingered at Camp Nou.

When Messi won the Champions League in 2015, aged 27, the assumption was there would be more but instead there has been an only disappointment, three quarter-finals and one semi-final, the last two tournaments ending in capitulation.

The fear of a repeat and another year squandered was instrumental in the decision to sack Ernesto Valverde last month, even if players insisted losses to Roma and Liverpool were not down to their coach.

After the clumsy appointment of Quique Setien, in which Xavi Hernandez was approached but not persuaded, and then a botched January transfer window, when strikers were targeted but not signed, frustration grew.

In an interview with Diario Sport on Tuesday, the club’s sporting director Eric Abidal then called out Xavi, who remains close to many in the dressing room, and shifted responsibility onto the players.

– Alba speaks out –
As the most powerful among them, Messi was implicated most.

He hit back, insisting “everyone should take responsibility for their actions” and that not naming names “tarnished all the players”.

Jordi Alba joined in the rebuke on Thursday night. “Those facing the music are the players and the coaching staff,” he said. “Enough shit is thrown at us from the outside, we don’t have to throw it at ourselves from within.”

In the middle of it all, Setien is trying to usher in a new style of play mid-season, more in-keeping with the club’s DNA and better suited to Messi.

Setien said on Wednesday his “obligation” was to focus on football but that has been a concern as well, two defeats in his opening six games leaving Barcelona out of the cup and three points behind in the league.

A clause in Messi’s contract means he could leave for free at the end of the season but the situation is likely to need to deteriorate further for that to become a realistic possibility.

No club in Europe can offer guaranteed success in the Champions League and Messi said in October he was against uprooting his family and three children from the city he has called home for close to two decades.

But lurking over the next month is a Champions League tie against Napoli and the Clasico against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu when failure would be harder to swallow.

First, Barca plays away at Real Betis on Sunday before two home games against Getafe and Eibar could offer a chance to reset.

If they falter, Real Madrid look primed to capitalise even if they were jolted by cup defeat too on Thursday in a 4-3 loss to Real Sociedad. Madrid play away on Sunday at Osasuna.

Fixtures (GMT)

Friday

Alaves v Eibar (2000)

Saturday

Levante v Leganes (1200), Getafe v Valencia (1500), Real Valladolid v Villarreal (1730), Atletico Madrid v Granada (2000)

Sunday

Espanyol v Mallorca (1100), Real Sociedad v Athletic Bilbao (1300), Osasuna v Real Madrid (1500), Celta Vigo v Sevilla (1730), Real Betis v Barcelona (2000).

(AFP)

Sign up to FREE email alerts from Tribunepoint Weekly - Daily News

When you subscribe we will use the information you provide to send you these newsletters. Sometimes they’ll include recommendations for other related newsletters or services we offer. Our Privacy Notice explains more about how we use your data, and your rights. You can unsubscribe at any time.

- Advertisement -

Read Also

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -

Latest News

Ontario’s stay-at-home order will likely be extended into June to avoid fourth COVID-19 wave

Ontario has been advised to "stay the course" with the province's pandemic restrictions until COVID-19 cases experience a significant decline, which could...

Solskjaer slams ‘impossible schedule’ after Man Utd qualify for Europa League final

Manchester United manager, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has hit out at the Premier League after they were ordered to play three matches in...

Saraki plots comeback in Kwara, as APC grapples with internal crisis

In 2019, the 16 years reign of former Senate President, Bukola Saraki as the King of Kwara politics came to an end...

Insecurity: Employ mercenaries to fight bandits, Boko Haram – Buba Galadima to Buhari

Buba Galadima, former leader of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, has called on the Federal Government to re-enlist the services...

Children 12 and older now cleared to receive Pfizer vaccine: Health Canada

Health Canada says the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is now safe to give to children ages 12 and up. The...