According to the Spanish press, chaos reigns at Barcelona, as the fallout over Luis Enrique’s decision to bench star striker Lionel Messi for last Sunday’s 1-0 loss at Real Sociedad continues. Speculation is rife that the pair's relationship is beyond repair, with Madrid-based AS claiming that Messi has already told club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, either "[Enrique] goes or I go."
Messi returned to training with the first team on Wednesday after failing to turn up for Monday’s practice with “gastroenteritis” (the first team was off on Tuesday). Separate reports claim that Enrique had wanted to fine Messi for Monday’s no-show, but the former AS Roma and Celta de Vigo coach was persuaded by senior players Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta not to make a big deal out of the incident. According to the reports, the “gastroenteritis” excuse was made up by the club.
Nevertheless, Enrique stuck by the story during Wednesday’s grilling by the Spanish press ahead of Barca’s Copa del Rey round of 16 clash with Elche on Thursday, saying that Messi was ill on Monday while insisting that he had not received any ultimatum from President Bartomeu. Asked about Messi specifically, Enrique acknowledged that the Argentine is the best player in the world, before adding: "I do not treat my kids the same, so do not treat all players the same either. That would be a mistake. Although the group is most important, above any individual. But there are some rules of behavior that everyone should follow."
Following Enrique’s press conference, Bartomeu made the surprise announcement that he is calling a summer presidential election, in an attempt to lift the negative tension currently surrounding Barca. The club president also strenuously denied any falling out between Enrique and Messi.