Lionel Messi lashes out at Barcelona for selling Luis Suarez

Barcelona’s forwards Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez warm up before the ‘El Clasico’ Spanish League football match against Real Madrid CF at the Camp Nou Stadium in Barcelona last year. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 26 September 2020

Lionel Messi lashes out at Barcelona for selling Luis Suarez

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi criticized the exit of teammate and good friend Luis Suarez on Friday, dealing another blow to the damaged relationship between the Argentine and Barcelona’s leadership.

Messi posted a photo of himself with Suarez on Instagram with a message expressing his sadness for his friend’s departure and his anger at how the club transferred him to Atletico Madrid.

“It is going to be so strange seeing you in another shirt, and even stranger to have to play against you,” Messi wrote.

“You deserved a sending-off fit for what you are: One of the most important players in club history, both for what you did for the group and individually — not the one they gave you. But it is true that at this point nothing surprises me.”

Barcelona decided to overhaul its squad after the 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League last month.

The 33-year-old Suarez was told by incoming coach Ronald Koeman that he was no longer wanted.

The club, hard hit financially by the coronavirus pandemic, also needed to reduce its expenditures on salaries for its players. Suarez bid farewell to Barcelona’s fans in an emotional news conference on Thursday.

He leaves Camp Nou as the club’s third leading scorer with 198 goals.

The Uruguayan helped Barcelona win 13 titles since arriving in 2014 from Liverpool, including four Spanish league trophies and the Champions League in 2015.

Suarez forged a dynamic scoring duo with Messi over the years, and the two South Americans became neighbors and fast friends, along with their families.

“I was accepting the idea (of your departure), but not until I entered the changing room did I realize what it means,” Messi wrote.

“How difficult it is going to be not sharing each day with you, both on and off the field. We will miss you very much. These have been many years of many mates, lunches, dinners ... many things I won’t forget from all those days together.”

Barcelona transferred Suárez to Spanish league rival Atlético for €6 million ($7 million).

Messi had tried to leave the club he has been a part of for 20 years after the debacle against Bayern, but Barcelona replied that he must finish the final year of his contract.

Suarez also took Messi’s side in the dispute on Thursday when he said: “I have to accept it if the club decides it is time that I go, just like the club should accept it if a player wants to leave.”

Messi, however, has already given up in trying to leave this season.

He has vowed to play his hardest for the team while he remains — even if he is even more disgruntled after Suárez’s departure.

Messi’s comments are the latest run-in between him and the club’s board.

Club president Josep Bartomeu has called for elections in March, in which he cannot run again, but he is also facing a censure referendum that could oust him and his board in the coming weeks.


Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

Updated 20 October 2020

Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

  • Barca have not won since 2015, but since then have never embarked on a new campaign amid so much disarray

MADRID: Despite managing to hang onto Lionel Messi, Barcelona begin its Champions League campaign with reduced expectations after one of their worst seasons in years.
The Catalan club appears to lack its confidence from previous seasons following an embarrassing elimination to Bayern Munich and a troubled off-season in which it nearly lost its talisman.

“Knowing what happened recently, we are not the top favorite,” coach Ronald Koeman said on Monday ahead of the team's debut in this season's competition against Hungarian club Ferencvaros. “But we are a team that can go far.”

Koeman arrived to put Barcelona back on track shortly after the 8-2 collapse against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, which capped their first season without a title since 2007-08.

“Barcelona always plays to win titles, in the league and in Europe, but there are other strong teams,” Koeman said.

Barcelona have not  won the Champions League since 2015, but since then they had never embarked on a new campaign in the competition amid so much disarray.

The club avoided losing Messi after he said he wanted to leave, but it continued to endure political turmoil and even financial difficulties. President Josep Bartomeu is facing a censure motion that could force him to leave his post before the end of the year.

Koeman was given the task of revamping the first team, and he quickly got rid of veterans such as Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic, but the club failed to bring in any of the players he wanted in the transfer window.

Koeman said Messi is fine despite scoring just once so far this season.

“Maybe his performance could be better, but I see him happy,” Koeman said. “I see him training well and focused. I have nothing to complain about him in that sense.”

He said “a bit of bad luck” has played a role in keeping the Argentina star from scoring more goals so far. Koeman also downplayed criticism of Antoine Griezmann for his recent poor performances, though he admitted that “everyone in the attack” can improve.

Barcelona opened the Spanish league with two convincing wins under Koeman, but then it drew 1-1 with Sevilla at home and lost 1-0 at Getafe on Saturday.

Hungarian champions Ferencvaros return to the Champions League for the first time since 1995. They needed to get through four qualifying rounds to reach the group stage.

The other Group G teams are Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv.

“We want to start with the right foot,” Koeman said. “We want to win the match and gain tranquility.”