Valverde lost his job in January when Barcelona were top of La Liga and Abidal told SPORT earlier this week that the club began considering the coach’s position after drawing 0-0 against Real Madrid in the first Clásico of the season shortly before Christmas.
But the 40-year-old also appeared to pass some of it onto the players when he said, “Many players weren’t satisfied or working a lot and there was also an internal communication problem.”
That was a comment that Messi took issue with and the six-time Ballon d’Or winner took the rare step of making a statement on social media, in which he called on Abidal to name names if he is going to blame the players and not simply tarnish the whole squad.
“Sincerely, I don’t like to do these things but I think that people have to be responsible for their jobs and own their decisions,” Messi posted on his Instagram story.
Lionel Messi hits out at Barcelona's Sporting Director and former team-mate Eric Abidal pic.twitter.com/8FCBU48YE5— B/R Football (@brfootball) February 4, 2020
“The players (are responsible) for what happens on the pitch and we are the first to admit when we haven’t been good. The heads of the sports department have to take their responsibilities too and above all own the decisions they make,” he added.
“I think that when you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it makes everyone dirty and gives air to things that are said which are not true.”
Mundo Deportivo describes it as a ‘genuine internal earthquake’ and suggests that Abidal’s position has now been ‘weakened’, having only just been reassured of his job security at the weekend.
Indeed, the purpose of Abidal giving an interview to SPORT was to defend, justify and explain the club’s decision making processes in terms of their non-existent winter recruitment. MD notes that even the ‘worst case scenario’ didn’t predict this twist.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has called a meeting with Eric Abidal to discuss the sporting director's future at the club following a public disagreement with Lionel Messi.— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) February 5, 2020
A report from El Larguero suggests that Abidal had no intention to put any blame onto Messi and that his comments in the interview were misinterpreted. Elsewhere, El Patizado de COPE reports that Messi and Luis Suarez didn’t want to see Valverde sacked.