Setien says smiling Lionel Messi 'loves being at Barcelona' amid Abidal row

By Sports Desk February 05, 2020

Quique Setien insists Lionel Messi loves being at Barcelona and is smiling as normal in training amid his public disagreement with sporting director Eric Abidal.

Messi took to Instagram to urge Abidal to "give names" after the Frenchman questioned the work ethic of some Barca players under Setien's predecessor Ernesto Valverde.

Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu is reportedly set to hold talks with Abidal to discuss the situation amid fevered speculation over the row.

Setien, though, claimed he was not interested in the situation and had not seen any change in Messi's attitude during training on Wednesday, with the same response applying to the squad as a whole.

Asked if the Argentina star was still motivated, Setien said: "Of course, I have seen him smiling, he seems fine, he loves coming to train, he loves being here, he looks the same as yesterday and the day before.

"Messi has the experience and the capacity to decide about things that he should or should not do. 

"I'm not going to get involved in the life of Messi, or anyone else.

"I'm nobody's dad, I have to ensure that my players come here, come here happy and that what we provide on the pitch are good for them to grow so that we can continue winning. The other stuff doesn't bother me at all."

Ahead of Thursday's away Copa del Rey quarter-final against Athletic Bilbao, Setien stressed that contest was his sole concern amid continued questions about Messi, Abidal, the hamstring injury to Ousmane Dembele and how the club had handled the January transfer window.

"The majority of things you have said I'm sure are very important things but they don't affect me at all," he said. 

"I will try everything possible to ensure my group are as little affected as possible. We spoke one minute about this, talking about the importance of tomorrow's game and the obligation we have to completely focus on that, which is what interests us.

"My interest is football, as for everything else I'm sure there are situations I'm not able to control so that's why I don't waste my time on them.

"I'm going to talk about what really interests me and the players, football. I will try to make sure everything that happens around the club doesn't affect us.

"I know there are always problems in this club and it is the same in every club in the world, I'm sure. You can talk, but talk to me about football, please. I want to have training, prepare for the game and focus."

Much has happened off the field in Setien's first month since replacing Valverde, but he was adamant about having no regrets over taking the Barca job.

"No, definitely not!" he said. "It is true I didn't have a problem a month ago at home, but what a problem this is to have. 

"I have the same desire, same will, maybe more now because my life has never been easy. 

"This is what you can expect when you come to team of this dimension. I've never crumbled easily and I'm absolutely convinced this will go well."

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