He waited, and waited, and waited. And then Barcelona scored. And their world made sense again.

Lionel Messi might be without a goal of his own since January 30, but he showed in Sunday's enthralling win at Real Betis that he doesn't need to find the net himself to keep Barca's fate under his spell.

The champions' 3-2 LaLiga win at a raucous Benito Villamarin was a crucial tonic at the end of a miserable week in which exiting the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage to Athletic Bilbao was merely a footnote.

First came the latest setback to Ousmane Dembele, now likely to be out of action until the end of the season with a hamstring tendon injury. Then, technical secretary Eric Abidal was quoted accusing Barca players of downing tools during Ernesto Valverde's final weeks in charge.

Those incidents alone would have been enough to make this a troublesome week for Barca, especially since they failed to sign a Luis Suarez replacement in January and are now scrabbling around for emergency deals to compensate for Dembele's newest injury. Then Messi, as he has for his whole career as the world's finest footballer, took things to another level.

It was 'only' a social media post – but it was a social media post from Messi. The club captain, the greatest player in Barcelona history, the man who is esteemed for the limited off-field distractions he creates caused a storm as newsworthy as the weather front battering northern Europe this weekend.

Messi is no fool. He knew what sort of reaction he would provoke by calling out Abidal for "dirtying" Barca players. Said to have had enough of being accused of wielding ultimate power at Camp Nou, he dragged Barca into a full-blown crisis with a mere Instagram story. He will not need anyone to point out the irony.

It all meant Sunday's visit to Betis, where Barca boss Quique Setien won most of his acclaim as a coach, was a mere sideshow. And yet, because of Messi, a week that threatened to derail Barca's entire season ended in a victory that might just set them right back on track.

Messi, who can cancel his contract at the end of this season, has long been said to be keen to see Barca build a squad capable of winning LaLiga and the Champions League. He would be forgiven for having a few misgivings when the Catalans lined up in Seville with veteran midfielder Arturo Vidal as a false nine, long before Sergio Canales' opener from the penalty spot must have left him feeling fed up in the extreme.

So, he chose to change the landscape.

First, he gathered a pass from Frenkie de Jong, who had turned expertly into space under pressure in his own half before spreading the ball wide. And he waited, and waited, and waited – and then dropped a lofted pass right onto De Jong's chest, begging to be volleyed home. Barca were level, De Jong having suddenly morphed back into the midfield dynamo of Ajax last season, and all thanks to Messi's intervention.

After Nabil Fekir scored a fine second for Betis against the run of play, Barca were under pressure again. But Messi, with seconds to go before the break, looked through the chaos to the bigger picture. His clipped free-kick landed for Sergio Busquets to control and fire home.

With 18 minutes to go, Messi completed his hat-trick of assists. Another deep free-kick, another pinpoint delivery, and this time an emphatic header from Clement Lenglet made it 3-2.

Three goals from set-pieces is not the Setien way, not the Barca way, but it was just what the Catalans needed after this most unsettling of weeks – even if it reminded us all just how willingly they dance to Messi's tune.

Mind you, who else has his sense of timing?

Lionel Messi grabbed a hat-trick of assists as Barcelona ended a tumultuous week with a pulsating 3-2 LaLiga win over Real Betis at the Benito Villamarin on Sunday.

The Catalan giants were dumped out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao in midweek, while Messi has been involved in a public spat with technical director Eric Abidal after he questioned the work ethic of some players under previous boss Ernesto Valverde.

Quique Setien's side got off to a terrible start against his former employers, with Sergio Canales' penalty putting the hosts ahead early on, but a wonderful goal from Frenkie de Jong pulled the champions level soon after.

Nabil Fekir - who was later dismissed for two bookable offences in quick succession - restored the hosts' advantage with a fine finish, before Sergio Busquets scored a second equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

Clement Lenglet then headed home Messi's free-kick 18 minutes from time to ensure Barca remain three points behind leaders Real Madrid after their 4-1 win at Osasuna earlier in the day, although the Frenchman blotted his copybook by picking up a second yellow card soon after Fekir's dismissal.

Betis opened the scoring in the sixth minute, Canales stroking home from the penalty spot after Lenglet had handled Fekir's strike inside the penalty area.

Their lead lasted just three minutes, though, as De Jong chested down Messi's superb ball over the top and volleyed past Joel Robles from six yards.

Fekir rounded off a swift counter-attacking move with a fine low strike from 18 yards past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to restore Betis' advantage just before the half-hour mark.

Messi was again the provider for Barca's equaliser in first-half stoppage time, his deep free-kick turned in by Busquets from eight yards.

Messi was twice denied by Robles after the interval but he was central to Barca's winner, floating in a free-kick that was headed home by a towering Lenglet.

Fekir saw red 14 minutes from time, picking up quickfire bookings for a foul on Lenglet and dissent, while Barca's French defender also received his marching orders three minutes later after catching Joaquin.

Lucas Vazquez talked up Real Madrid's character after LaLiga's leaders came from behind to beat Osasuna 4-1 on Sunday.

Unai Garcia headed Osasuna ahead at El Sadar but two goals in five minutes from Isco and Sergio Ramos put Madrid ahead before half-time.

Substitutes Vazquez and Luka Jovic extended the visitors' lead in the closing stages to make it five league wins on the spin.

Madrid exited the Copa del Rey in midweek with a surprise 4-3 quarter-final loss to Real Sociedad and Vazquez was glad to quickly put that defeat to one side.

"It was an important game for us, more so after the blow of the Copa defeat," he told reporters. 

"I think the team has left a good impression. It's really important in a difficult week. Winning in the way that we did says a lot about us."

Madrid had drawn two of their previous three league visits to Osasuna and Vazquez suggested his side have learned lessons from those costly slip-ups.

"In other years, we have struggled to win at these types of grounds and that's where we threw away the league," he said.

"We're doing very well and we're going to be there until the end."

Asked if titles are won in tricky fixtures such as Sunday's at El Sadar, Vazquez replied: "Yes, but it's also won at the Santiago Bernabeu, Camp Nou ... everywhere. It's about consistency."

Madrid were under the cosh for large parts of the game but came away with all three points to move six clear of Barcelona ahead of the reigning champions' trip to Real Betis.

Echoing the thoughts of Vazquez, midfielder Casemiro - who teed up Ramos for Los Blancos' key second goal - praised his team-mates for digging deep to get the win.

"We came off the back of being knocked out in the Copa and it was a difficult game mentally," he said.

"We showed that we can fight for everything. There are lots of things to come; they were three very important points."

Osasuna have taken points off Barcelona, Sevilla and Valencia on home soil this term and had kept back-to-back clean sheets there in the league.

"It was a typical game against Osasuna," Casemiro added. "We have to congratulate them because they have fans that bring so much.

"We knew that the match was going to be like that; they pushed forward a lot in the first 15 minutes and then, once we had control, it went how we thought it would.

"We didn't want to concede, but we came back well. We controlled the game well and it was a very focused game from everyone."

Zinedine Zidane again reiterated there is no problem between himself and Gareth Bale after recalling the winger for Real Madrid's 4-1 win at Osasuna.

Madrid extended their lead at the top of LaLiga to six points ahead of Barcelona's trip to Real Betis as they prevailed in a feisty encounter at El Sadar.

Unai Garcia headed the hosts into a 14th-minute lead but Isco volleyed in his first league goal of the campaign and Sergio Ramos edged Madrid in front before the break.

Substitutes Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic added gloss to the scoreline late on, the former having replaced the recalled Bale 20 minutes from time.

The Wales star passed up a pair of half-chances before having a hand in Isco's equaliser and Zidane was impressed by his efforts without the ball, during what was at times a gruelling contest.

"He is an important player, he has shown it," Zidane told reporters afterwards.

"He has not played the last three games and has made 70 very good minutes defensively.

"Then, the problem is that they want us to have a problem with Gareth, but there is not one.

"There are many players, it’s not easy to manage all that. He’s a very important player, he’s always shown it and he’ll keep playing, like the others."

Asked again about Bale's performance, Zidane added: "He has done well. I am happy for his game, offensively and defensively he has given everything.

"He was a bit short physically at the end, so he has left the field. We know the player he is and that he is going to give a lot from now until the end of the season. Let's count on Gareth."

Jovic is another player who has not always found favour with his boss and the former Eintracht Frankfurt striker's fabulous left-footed finish marked only a second LaLiga goal, and his first since October.

"I'm glad for him, I needed him, he is a pure striker of whom you can say many things," Zidane said.

"He plays well, but if he does not score a goal he is not happy. He has to improve, but I'm glad for his goal. It will come in handy."

Eden Hazard was absent once more, with the Belgium playmaker running out of time to prove his fitness before the Champions League clash with Manchester City at the end of this month.

"It's a thing we do together," Zidane explained when discussing the management of Hazard's recovery from a fractured ankle.

"It wasn't the time today again and we'll see this week. He's going to need this week, it's going to be long. We're going to see him next week, I hope."

Isco's first LaLiga goal of the season helped Real Madrid to a battling 4-1 win at Osasuna on Sunday.

The hosts deservedly hit the front at a bristling El Sadar thanks to Unai Garcia's header, but Isco finished with aplomb in the 33rd minute.

Sergio Ramos' knack for vital goals came up trumps for Zinedine Zidane once more before the interval, and Madrid now lead Barcelona by six points at the summit.

Substitutes Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic made sure of that state of affairs before Quique Setien takes Barca to face his old employers Real Betis in the day's late kick-off.

Right-back Nacho Vidal fizzed a 20-yard shot narrowly wide inside the first minute to serve notice of Osasuna's intentions before Jose Arnaiz and Ruben Garcia raided down the right-hand side of Madrid's defence to go close.

It meant the 14th-minute opener was on the cards when it arrived – Unai Garcia stooping to head home Ruben Garcia's corner.

Madrid's most immediate route back into the match appeared to be Osasuna keeper Sergio Herrera, who twice darted from his goal and was indebted to last-ditch clearances from shots by Karim Benzema and Dani Carvajal.

Herrera was more conventionally placed but had no chance when Isco dispatched a looping ball on the volley after Gareth Bale's attempt was blocked.

Casemiro atoned for his poor marking on Osasuna's goal by heading Luka Modric's corner back across goal for Ramos to make it 2-1.

Unai Garcia got in the way of Benzema's goalbound 49th-minute effort from a Modric cutback, and Osasuna kept scrapping away – Casemiro turning Ruben Garcia's shot behind after Nacho Vidal ransacked Isco.

The playmaker was certainly more at home in the opposition half and a sharp low stop from Herrera kept out an Isco snapshot before Vazquez replaced Bale.

The Spain winger benefitted from Benzema's unselfish 84th-minute pass, while Modric and Federico Valverde combined for Jovic to rifle in his second LaLiga goal – and first since October – in stoppage time.

Inigo Perez rattling Thibaut Courtois crossbar showed Osasuna's spirit remained intact until the last.
 

What does it mean? Pressure on Barca

Madrid might not have been at their best here, but it does not matter. Barcelona's uncertain start to life under Setien will now continue with them eyeing a mounting deficit when they kick-off at Estadio Benito Villamarin. Anything more than three points for the Blaugrana and this weekend will come to appear pivotal in the title battle.

Ramos proves the master of irritation once more

He is certainly not to everyone's taste, but if you're a fan, this was time to enjoy some pure, unadulterated, hook-it-to-my-veins Sergio Ramos. Madrid were lucky to be level when Ramos decided to begin a prolonged argument with any Osasuna player willing to listen. The trap of distraction was set for the corner to come and the unmarked skipper proceeded to mock his opponents by sucking his thumb and blowing kisses in celebration. In a title race that could be scrapped for until the last, Madrid have the ideal man leading the charge.

Lack of sharpness does Bale no favours

Claiming an assist for Isco's equaliser would be ambitious, but Bale needs all he can get at Madrid right now. Granted only a 10th LaLiga start this term, the Wales star volleyed into the side-netting and headed over from Carvajal deliveries before half-time. They were, at best, half-chances but Bale's dwindling standing with Zidane means he now needs something special every time an opportunity comes his way.

What's next?

Madrid host Celta Vigo in seven days' time, when Osasuna travel to Athletic Bilbao.

Kaka believes Lionel Messi could leave Barcelona and warned it is important there is no messy divorce if the Argentina star moves on from Camp Nou.

Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi was incensed by recent comments from sporting director Eric Abidal, who questioned whether some players showed full commitment under former head coach Ernesto Valverde.

A scathing response from Messi bypassed official club channels as he took Abidal to task on Instagram, and that raised the question of whether the record-breaking forward remains happy at Barcelona.

He has spent his entire professional career with the Catalan giants and is by a long distance their all-time leading goalscorer and closing in on Xavi's appearances records.

Yet Kaka, who starred for Milan, Real Madrid and Brazil and also won the 2007 Ballon d'Or, says the day could come when Messi seeks to move on.

It would then behove both parties to ensure the split is conducted in a dignified way, Kaka explained.

Messi has a clause in his contract that allows him to leave on a free transfer at the end of each season.

"I think it's not going to be a problem for him to play in the Premier League, or [to play] at a top club at the top three leagues in the world would be good for him," Kaka told Sky Sports News.

"But of course it depends on what he wants for his career. It's hard to see him playing for another club, but it's just ... [he may feel,] 'It's okay, it's time for me to change and I'll go to have another experience and I'll be the best football player in the world for another team.'

"I think the most important thing is not the broken part but the way this is going to be broken.

"When [Cristiano] Ronaldo left Madrid we were sad that Ronaldo left the club and of course a lot of them regret Ronaldo's left Real Madrid.

"But I think everybody at the time understood that, okay, for him it's another challenge, he needs another challenge, he needs to move, it's okay, we are one of the best clubs in the world and we'll keep going, Real Madrid needs to rebuild.

"It's more the way, if it's going to happen, it's the way that it's going to happen."

Kaka is hoping to move into a football director's role and explained he was fascinated by the Messi saga.

"I'm in this position right now to understand the clubs, the sports director, how to manage a club, how to build a team, and it's a very good situation for me to understand how they're going to handle this, because right now everything's so hot," Kaka said.

"We're going to hear a lot about that, but I'm looking forward to seeing the next step - Messi, [whether] he's going to leave, Abidal, or the club, Barcelona, how they're going to manage this situation will be really nice.

"From outside it's really hard to say something. I don't know if Messi wants to leave or he just wants to protect his players - [and is thinking,] 'As a captain I need to protect my team.'"

Gareth Bale was named in Real Madrid's starting line-up for Sunday's LaLiga meeting with Osasuna at El Sadar.

Wales international Bale sat out Madrid's past four games, having initially struggled with an ankle injury sustained in the Copa del Rey clash against Unionistas de Salamanca on January 22.

However, he got the nod from Zinedine Zidane to make just his 10th league start of the season and first in over a month.

Bale's return was one of eight changes to the team that was eliminated from the Copa del Rey quarter-finals by Real Sociedad on Thursday.

Sergio Ramos, Federico Valverde and Karim Benzema were the only players to hang onto their places.

Thibaut Courtois was back in goal, with Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Ferland Mendy joining Ramos in defence.

Luka Modric and Casemiro were brought in for Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez, while Zidane picked Bale and Isco to flank Karim Benzema in attack.

Paris Saint-Germain reportedly have no interest in listening to offers for star Kylian Mbappe.

Mbappe, 21, has repeatedly been linked to Real Madrid, rumours which only intensified after the forward was involved in a bust-up with coach Thomas Tuchel.

But PSG are prepared to make the France international see out his contract, rather than lose one of their star players.

 

TOP STORY – PSG STANDING FIRM OVER MBAPPE AMID MADRID LINKS

PSG will not listen to offers for Mbappe amid links to Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Mbappe is contracted in Paris until 2022 and the Ligue 1 giants are willing to make him see out his deal.

PSG have also tried to extend Mbappe's contract, moves which are set to continue despite his seeming unhappiness at the club.

ROUND-UP

- With Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under some pressure at Old Trafford, Mauricio Pochettino has not given up on becoming Manchester United manager ahead of next season, according to the Mirror.

- While Pochettino may arrive, Paul Pogba seems likely to leave United. Tuttosport reports the midfielder and Juventus attacker Paulo Dybala dream of playing together again, with Pogba perhaps set for a return to Turin. Dybala is in contract talks with Juventus with his deal expiring in 2022.

- Jack Grealish seems to know where he wants to be. Goal reports the midfielder is ready to join Manchester United from Aston Villa, although no formal talks have taken place. The Sun says Grealish prefers Manchester United over other clubs, while the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the race for the Englishman.

- With Luis Suarez set to miss most of the rest of the season due to injury, Barcelona are eyeing a move for … Luis Suarez. El Larguero reports Barcelona have made contact with Real Zaragoza over the forward, who is on loan from Watford. Suarez has scored 14 goals in the Segunda Division this season.

- On loan at Newcastle United from Tottenham, Danny Rose will be watched by Paris Saint-Germain ahead of a possible move at the end of the season, according to The Sun.

Diego Simeone hailed Atletico Madrid's improved performance after they ended a five-game winless streak by beating Granada 1-0 and paid tribute to the club's supporters for instilling his players with "responsibility".

Atletico moved up to fourth place in LaLiga after Angel Correa's sixth-minute goal settled an entertaining contest at Wanda Metropolitano, where Simeone's men put a torrid run of results behind them.

The victory was the Rojiblanco's first in six games in all competitions and came courtesy of an energetic first-half performance that impressed Simeone.

"In recent league games we could not respond accordingly to what we needed to do," Simeone told Movistar.

"There was a lot of weight on this match, but the players solved it and I am very happy about it.

"The supporters' impact is extraordinary; they fill you with responsibility, with the need to get involved.

"We are working and we are improving little by little."

Simeone saw Koke deliver a fine display in behind his front two, the attacking midfielder making his first appearance since he sustained a hamstring injury in December.

Koke provided the assist for Correa's goal and linked up well with Saul Niguez throughout a game in which a recently goal-shy Atletico team attacked persistently before coming under some late pressure. 

"Yes, I am happy for him and the team," Simeone said of Koke.

"We were very agile in the first 25 minutes, we started very well, with pressure and presence in the opponents' half, but then we backed off and they began to grow.

"They [Granada] are very good, they showed it, it comes from progressing to the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey and they gave us a fight until the end.

"When you need to win, the minutes run slower."

Atletico Madrid's five-game winless run came to a halt as Angel Correa's early goal secured a 1-0 victory over Granada at Wanda Metropolitano.

With attacking talents Diego Costa and Joao Felix out injured, Diego Simeone started with Vitolo alongside Correa in a two-pronged attack and was rewarded when the latter scored his fourth LaLiga goal of the season after six minutes. 

Atletico went into the match having failed to score in their previous three top-flight outings but delivered a performance full of urgency and guile.

The poor form that hampered the Rojiblanco in the last month threatened to resurface as Granada rallied in the last 20 minutes of an entertaining contest but Simeone saw his charges dig in when it mattered to make sure of a sorely needed three points.

Atletico's goal drought ended when Koke, back in the team after almost two months out with a hamstring injury, played Correa into the box and the 24-year-old rifled a low shot past Aaron Escandell from 12 yards.

Vitolo dragged a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards as the hosts kept the pressure on and he had the ball in the net after 25 minutes only for his effort to be ruled out for offside.

Saul Niguez deserved a goal nine minutes into the second half when he met Correa's cross with a volley at the far post but Escandell was equal to it.

Yannick Carrasco replaced Renan Lodi and tested Escandell with a low drive from just inside the box before a spell of Granada pressure saw Ramon Azeez fire disappointingly wide when well placed. 

Having controlled the game for over an hour the home side's grip faltered and Jan Oblak had to be alert to save Roberto Soldado's close-range volley, the Atletico goalkeeper getting down smartly to parry it away.

Carrasco won a free-kick on the edge of the box seven minutes from time but Saul curled his shot just wide of the target as Atletico failed to add gloss to a satisfying result.

 

What does it mean? Huge relief for Simeone

A run of three winless LaLiga matches can be reframed as four wins in seven and Atletico are up to fourth in the table, three points behind third-placed Getafe.

Better call Saul

There were strong performances from Thomas Partey and Koke in the Atletico midfield but Saul was notably involved in most of their best play and his quick thinking at a throw-in started the move that led to the winner.

Big miss from Azeez

Granada were never going to get many opportunities on goal in this game and when they did they were let down by Azeez, who snatched at his shot when a cool head was required.

What's next?

Granada are in action on Wednesday as they take on Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey ahead of Atletico's difficult trip to Valencia in LaLiga on Friday.

Barcelona supporters can expect to see more of young attacker Alex Collado but head coach Quique Setien admitted Riqui Puig's first-team chances could be limited this season.

Collado has made just one LaLiga appearance this term, playing for five minutes as a substitute in Barca's 2-0 defeat at Valencia in January, while Puig has played for 22 minutes across two cameos.

The pair are seen as two of the club's brightest prospects as established players like Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets enter the latter stages of their careers, and Setien indicated that Collado's ability to play as part of a front three means he is of more immediate use than central midfielder Puig.

"They are two very different kind of players," Setien told reporters.

"We try to think which player we need most at certain times of the game. They're two very good players and they've both got chances to play. We're getting to know them better every day.

"We're seeing what they're capable of doing for us in every training session. It's a time of learning.

"With Riqui there are a lot of players in the position where he would normally play but Collado, playing up front, he's going to get chances. We'll have to see how things go."

Setien saw his players get knocked out of the Copa del Rey on Thursday, when they were beaten 1-0 by Athletic Bilbao.

As he prepared for Sunday's trip to face his former club Real Betis, he reflected on the positive aspects of that game and indicated he is hopeful of ending a three-game winless run on the road in LaLiga.

"It's about the dynamic of how this team has been playing away from home for some time," said Setien. "The other day I thought we improved a lot but unfortunately the result didn't go our way.

"We need to try to take the good conclusions from that game and it's a question of getting back out onto the pitch, playing another game. There's not much time to dwell on your sorrows at this club. You need to be fresh and lucid.

"We've improved a lot. We're seeing continuity but the three points are important because we want to be chasing for the title until the end.

"It's time to ratify the improvement in the cup at a really difficult ground.

"We were hurt by losing the cup game but we've learned a lot from it."

Gareth Bale is back in Real Madrid's squad for Sunday's LaLiga trip to Osasuna following Zinedine Zidane's insistence there is no issue between the pair.

Bale, who is enduring an underwhelming season, last featured for Madrid in the Copa del Rey clash with Unionistas de Salamanca on January 22.

The ankle knock he suffered in that encounter was only minor, but after being left out for their next game – a 1-0 win at Real Valladolid – he also failed to get himself back in contention for the next three outings.

Most recently Madrid lost 4-3 at home in a thrilling Copa del Rey quarter-final tussle with Real Sociedad, and despite scoring Los Blancos' third, Rodrygo Goes is one of those to come out of the travelling party.

Eden Hazard continues to miss out as well – the Belgian yet to make his return from an ankle injury he suffered in November, despite making his comeback to training more than two weeks ago.

Also returning are Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez and Dani Carvajal as Madrid look to restore their six-point lead over Barcelona at the summit, who face head coach Quique Setien's former team Real Betis later the same day.

Neymar's return would hand Barcelona a huge boost, according to sporting director Eric Abidal.

The Brazil superstar left Camp Nou for PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in August 2017 but has been persistently linked with a move back to Barca.

Head coach Quique Setien said last week he would relish the chance to coach the Neymar and Abidal believes such a deal might be possible.

Asked for his opinion on Neymar coming back to the Catalan giants, Abidal told Mundo Deportivo: "I totally agree.

"Quique would be proud to be able to coach a player like Neymar and the others here who are of such a high level."

Barca have been left short in attack by serious injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele, though Ansu Fati impressed with a double in a 2-1 victory over Levante last weekend.

On the effect signing Neymar could have on Fati, Abidal said: "That's why planning is not so easy. We may wish to have all the best players, but we can't make a mistake in the development of players.

"Since Ansu broke into the first team, he's contributed a lot. In the last [LaLiga] game, he showed his talent again. He's a player who can play in many positions and you have to take that into account.

"I think the player is 100 per cent with us, with the first team, and has the goal of staying here for many years."

Barca could help fund a move for Neymar by letting Philippe Coutinho make his loan at Bayern permanent, which the Bundesliga giants can achieve by activating a €120m option.

However, it has been reported this week that Barca would be willing to consider an offer at €80m.

"The information we have is that Bayern are very happy with Philippe and Philippe is also very happy there," said Abidal.

"It's true they have an option [to buy him], but we have to plan perfectly with those who are in house and on loan, and then we'll see."

Another player who could be heading for the exit at Camp Nou is Ivan Rakitic, who accused the club of a lack of respect and was disappointed by the treatment of former coach Ernesto Valverde.

"I don't know in what sense of respect he spoke about," said Abidal, who believes Rakitic remains content at Barca.

"For a player, the most important thing is to have minutes. He's gone through a difficult moment with Valverde, now we have changed coach. It's something for the coach, because I can't manage playing minutes for a player.

"We have respect because we haven't spoken with anybody, and neither has he, it seems. He said he planned to leave but in the end he decided to stay at Barca and if he did that, it's because there is a percentage of satisfaction."

Zinedine Zidane admits "the knives come out" whenever Real Madrid lose but said criticism of Marcelo after the club's midweek Copa del Rey defeat was "upsetting".

Madrid suffered a miserable 4-3 reverse to Real Sociedad on Thursday to tumble out of the cup at the quarter-final stage, and the scoreline arguably flattered the Santiago Bernabeu hosts.

Trailing 4-1 at one stage, it took late goals from Rodrygo Goes and Nacho to garner any sense of respectability.

Zidane used the match to give several of his fringe players a chance, and although 31-year-old Marcelo last month made a 500th appearance for Madrid, he is no longer the first choice left-back.

Ferland Mendy is Zidane's preferred pick now, and Marcelo, despite netting Madrid's first goal, was one of a cluster of players whose performance came in for criticism after the Sociedad loss.

The likes of James Rodriguez, right-back Nacho, goalkeeper Alphonse Areola and forward Brahim Diaz all struggled to impose themselves on the game.

But when asked about Marcelo facing flak, Zidane said on Saturday: "It's upsetting because he gives his all when he plays – not just Marcelo, all the players do – but this isn't going to change. I can say it's upsetting, it's not good because they go out there and play to their maximum.

"The fans who were there saw that. The fans have a role to play – they could be upset when we get knocked out, but I know they know we've given 100 per cent.

"I think Marcelo gave his all the other day. The knives come out when you lose. When we lose, everything gets analysed. The important thing is my players give 100 per cent and he did, I think.

"He's been an important player for many years and I'm sure he's going to continue to be important until the end of the season

"It's very difficult with 50-60 games to play your best football always, so there are ups and downs. There's a long way to go and everyone is needed until the end of the season."

Madrid are back in action at Osasuna on Sunday and entered the weekend with a three-point lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

Marcelo's fellow Brazilian Casemiro was another to sit out the Sociedad game and the midfielder's absence was felt, but head coach Zidane said the team should have been able to cope without his presence.

"We have one player in that mould. But we have other players who can come in and do a good job," said the Frenchman. 

"People analyse too much the issue of if Casemiro plays or not. We all know what he brings to the side when he plays in that central position, but we need to play well when he's not available."

Lionel Messi wants to stay at Barcelona, but it is "never easy" to renew his contract, according to the club's technical secretary Eric Abidal.

Messi's future has been thrown into doubt following a turbulent week at Camp Nou, during which he criticised Abidal in a social media post for his comments on the squad's efforts under former coach Ernesto Valverde.

The Barca captain called on Abidal to name names and accused him of "dirtying" the squad by suggesting certain stars downed tools during Valverde's final weeks in charge.

With Messi able to have his contract cancelled at the end of the season and leave for free, there have been suggestions he could seek a new challenge for 2020-21, although Pep Guardiola insisted on Friday he did not want Manchester City to sign the Argentina star.

Abidal seems hopeful of extending Messi's contract, which will expire in June 2021, but he concedes it is difficult to negotiate terms with a player considered the greatest in the world.

"It's a question for him," he told Mundo Deportivo when asked about Messi's contract. "Hopefully, he continues.

"Leo said Barca is everything for him, that he wants to continue here and, from there, there are conditions. We're talking about the best player in the world and to have a renewal of such a player is never easy."

Messi has always seemed likely to end at least his European career with Barca, although it is said he wants the club to be in a strong position to challenge for LaLiga and the Champions League before he commits to new terms.

Abidal appears hugely confident in Barca's chances of continental glory this season, suggesting they could be unbeatable if they play to their highest level.

"The Champions League is the objective. We know the challenge is difficult but it's not impossible," he said, with Napoli up next in the round of 16.

"For me, Barca's only rivals are Barca. If the team is good physically and mentally, it will be very difficult for us to lose the ball and not be able to win."

Barcelona's trophy hopes have already been dealt a blow by the loss of Luis Suarez, who is not likely to return until near the end of the season due to a knee injury.

The striker will also be out of contract after next season, but Abidal expects to begin discussions over a new deal when the time is right.

"First, you have to have respect for the players, for what they're giving, what they've given before and what they will give to the club," he said. "It's an injury situation now. Hopefully, he'll recover well and, aside from that, it's just talking.

"If things look good to us as a club, of course we'll enter into negotiations and he will also have to tell us how he feels because, in the end, it's [about] respect for the club and for the team."

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