Barcelona coach Quique Setien said on Wednesday he would not get involved in “Lionel Messi’s life” after the Argentine superstar became entangled in a row with the club’s sporting director Eric Abidal.
Messi hit back at Abidal on Tuesday after the Frenchman had earlier blamed slackness in the dressing room for the departure of recently-fired boss Ernesto Valverde.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper Sport, Abidal said under Valverde, who was fired in mid-January, many players had been unhappy, had not worked hard enough and had not communicated properly.
“I’m not going to get into Messi’s life, or anyone’s life,” said Setien, who replaced Valverde.
“What interests me is football, everything else are situations that I will not be able to control, therefore I do not sweat on it,” the 61-year-old added.
Setien denied he had spoken individually to the Argentina star about the incident but said it had been briefly discussed in a training session by the squad.
Messi signed his last contract extension in 2017, with his current deal running through to next year but reportedly containing a clause that could allow him to quit Barcelona in June.
Former Real Betis boss Setien said Messi’s behaviour remained the same despite the falling out with Abidal.
“I have seen him smiling, I have seen him looking happy, he loves to come to training, he loves to be here and I have seen him just like he was yesterday or the day before yesterday,” Setien said.
Setien said his only focus was Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final tie at Athletic Bilbao.
“The importance of tomorrow’s match, the obligation we have is to focus totally and absolutely on the match,” Setien said.
Spanish media reported later on Wednesday, citing sources close to the club, that Abidal had met with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu who would no longer consider, as speculated beforehand, to demand the Frenchman’s resignation.
Messi on Tuesday criticised Abidal’s comments, saying that his former teammate should “name names”.
“Sincerely I don’t like doing this kind of thing but everyone has to be made responsible for their actions and what they say,” Messi said on Instagram.
“We the players in the dressing room are the first to admit it when we haven’t played well. The directors need to take their responsibilities too.
“I believe that if you talk about the players (in this way) you should name names instead of worrying everyone and encouraging rumours that are far from certain.”
Barcelona visit Real Betis on Sunday in La Liga, where they trail leaders Real Madrid by three points.