Barcelona coach Luis Enrique is insisting a future without star player Lionel Messi has never been considered as speculation over the Argentine’s future continues to mount.
Tensions have been simmering at Barcelona with the coach insisting Messi play a wider role in the line-up.
Messi had appeared to rule out a move following a stunning individual performance in Sunday’s 3-1 win over La Liga champions Atletico Madrid.
“I have never demanded anything to ensure that I stay because I have never had any intention of leaving,” he told Barca TV.
However, the following day he fuelled the rumour mill once more by saying “I don’t know where I’ll be next year” during a press conference ahead of the Ballon d’Or gala in Zurich.
“I don’t know what the future will bring,” said Enrique when asked if he thought Messi would win a fifth Ballon d’Or whilst at Barcelona.
“We all think that Messi will be at Barcelona for the coming years, it is what all the fans want. We are not even planning a squad without Messi.”
The speculation has arisen due to a reported breakdown in communications between Messi and Enrique.
Messi was left on the bench as Barca fell to a shock 1-0 defeat in their opening game of the year away to Real Sociedad and then missed training the next day, claiming to have suffered from a stomach bug.
Later that day he followed Chelsea and two of their players Thibaut Courtois and Filipe Luis on social media site Instagram and sources in the Catalan press then claimed Messi had met with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu to ask for the former Barca captain Enrique to be replaced as coach.
Both Messi and Bartomeu have since denied those claims, with the former particularly aggrieved that the reports surfaced in the Catalan press.
“It hurts me because it comes from here, from Barcelona, from people that love the club, or say they do. It doesn’t come from Madrid like it has in the past,” said Messi.
“It is not good that they look for rivalry between Luis Enrique and I because there isn’t any.”
And Enrique repeated his assertion that there is no division in the dressing room ahead of a demanding schedule in the coming weeks as Barca battle to advance in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, as well as clawing back a one-point deficit on La Liga leaders Real Madrid.
“The dressing room is united. We avoid the controversy and look for the best atmosphere possible.
“That is what we look for, although we know that things can change in five seconds. I see unity in every aspect.”
Enrique’s men are back in action on Thursday night when they face Elche in the second leg of their last 16 of the Copa del Rey.
The match should be a mere formality with Barcelona having won the first leg 5-0 last week and Enrique confirmed that a host of the club’s academy players would get a chance to prove their worth with a much tougher test in either Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid lying in wait should Barca progress to the last eight.
Photo Credits : AFP