Messi's future in doubt

LONDON - The future of Lionel Messi at Barcelona has been thrown into doubt after reports of a fall-out between the player and head coach Luis Enrique.

Enrique’s position is not thought to be under threat despite reports of a confrontation between Messi and Barca’s board over the authoritarian approach of the club’s former midfielder.

Messi missed training on Monday due to a stomach upset but remains linked in Spain with a summer move to Chelsea, Manchester City or Paris St-Germain.

The front page of Spanish newspaper Marca Spanish highlighted Messi's apparent discontent on its front page on Tuesday and the player also sparked suggestions of a possible move to Chelsea by following the club's Instagram account.

The rumours add to the general air of turbulence at Barca, who sacked Andoni Zubizarreta as their sporting director and saw Carles Puyol quit as his assistant on Monday, less than 24 hours after a shock defeat to David Moyes’s Real Sociedad.

Barcelona were scheduled to hold an emergency board meeting to discuss the club’s plight since the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld their one-year transfer ban for the illegal signing of under-age players.

That verdict piled the pressure on Zubizarreta, who had already been blamed for recruiting several flops this summer. His apparent attempt to place responsibility for the transfer ban on the shoulders of Josep Maria Bartomeu, the club president, during a television interview seemed to seal his fate.

The exit of Puyol quickly followed, months after his retirement as a player and subsequent appointment as Zubizarreta’s assistant.

The World Cup-winning defender wrote on Facebook: “I now want to experience other things from another perspective and from elsewhere. I want to grow both personally and professionally so that, in the future, hopefully I can return.”

In contrast, Zubizarreta’s departure after four years as sporting director was confirmed by the club.

“The FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has decided to terminate as of today the contract of the club’s director of football, Andoni Zubizarreta,” they said of their former goalkeeper, who earned 126 caps for Spain. – Agencies

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