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."

Lionel Messi looks like he has "one foot out of the door" following his public disagreement with Eric Abidal, according to former Barcelona winger Francisco Jose 'Lobo' Carrasco.

Barca director of football Abidal suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's dismissal as coach, a claim that provoked a response from the usually media shy Messi.

Writing on his official Instagram account and specifically highlighting a section of Abidal's quotes, Messi said: "I honestly don't like to do these things, but I think everyone has to be responsible for their tasks and take care of their decisions.

"The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch and we are also the first to recognise when we are not playing well.

"Those responsible for the area of sports management must also assume their responsibilities and especially for the decisions they make.

"Finally, I think that when talking about players we should give names, because if not we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true."

The spat does nothing to quell fears Messi has become tired of a perceived lack of leadership at boardroom level and will look to leave Camp Nou at the end of the season.

And Carrasco, who spent 11 years at Barcelona and won LaLiga in 1985, would not be surprised to see the six-time Ballon d'Or winner seek a new challenge.

He told Spanish TV programme El Chiringuito: "He's ill at ease.

"In all the years I've been watching him, and have loved the way he plays, it's the first time Messi has looked to me like he has one foot out of the door.

"I've never had to say that before."

Barca are next in action on Thursday in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Athletic Bilbao – coach Quique Setien is due to address the media in his usual pre-match news conference on Wednesday, with the comments of Abidal and Messi likely to be high on the agenda.

Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal says a bid to bring Neymar back to Catalonia is "not impossible".

Neymar left Camp Nou for Paris Saint-Germain in acrimonious circumstances in August 2017 for a world record fee of €222 million but suggestions of a return have lingered ever since.

The Brazil star's time in France has not always been easy with injuries and off-field issues blighting his bid to challenge Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the world's best player.

But he, along with Inter striker Lautaro Martinez, are seemingly on Barca's wish-list.

Abidal told El Mundo Deportivo: "It depends on planning, passports and many things.

"The important thing for me is the sporting aspect, trying to have a stronger team to reach our goals as a club.

"But having talented players like Lautaro, Neymar or others would always be good for the club.

"I don't see it as impossible. We will try to work for that."

It has been reported that Neymar has a clause in his contract that would enable him to leave the Parc des Princes for €170m at the end of the season.

"It gives you a price, but the price would be the same for all clubs. not just Barca," added Abidal, whose public exchange of views with Lionel Messi over Ernesto Valverde's exit means he may not be in the job long enough to oversee summer recruitment.

"The decision is always that of the player.

"If we can do that signing it would be good but we're always thinking that Barca has the philosophy of seeing what happens in the B team and youth teams.

"We always take into account what is already here when we do our planning."

Eric Abidal's interview tipped Lionel Messi over the edge.

Normally quiet, especially on social media, Messi used Instagram to hit out at Barcelona director of football Abidal, who had earlier suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's sacking.

Barca superstar Messi is reportedly unhappy with how things are unfolding at Camp Nou.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI TIRED OF BEING BARCA SCAPEGOAT

Lionel Messi is tired of being held responsible for everything that happens at Barcelona amid doubts over his future, according to COPE and Marca.

Contracted until 2021, captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi snapped back at Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal for bad-mouthing players at the club as he discussed Ernesto Valverde's exit.

It comes amid discontent towards the board and Barca's struggles on the pitch.

Clubs in China, the United States and the Middle East would all be interested should the Argentine opt for a change of scenery.

 

ROUND-UP

- Has Paul Pogba played his last game for Manchester United? The Red Devils are resigned to losing Pogba at the end of the season, reports The Mirror. Linked to Real Madrid and former club Juventus, Pogba has not featured since December due to an ongoing ankle problem.

- Staying at Old Trafford and The Mirror says United will prioritise signing Aston Villa star Jack Grealish as fellow midfield target James Maddison nears a new deal with Leicester City.

Atletico Madrid will consider Mauricio Pochettino as their next head coach if they move on from Diego Simeone, reports the Telegraph. Pochettino continues to be linked with United, who are struggling under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

- Standard Sport claims Chelsea will sign Lyon striker Moussa Dembele at the end of the season after failing to land the Frenchman in January.

- Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes is a target for Arsenal, reports The Sun. Arsenal enquired about the 22-year-old Brazilian's availability last month.

Milan snubbed the chance to sign Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic in January, says Calciomercato. Matic is out of contract at season's end but is open to extending his time in Manchester.

Lionel Messi has sensationally hit out at Barcelona director of football Eric Abidal after he suggested some players were not working hard enough prior to Ernesto Valverde's dismissal.

Abidal granted several interviews to Spanish media outlets on Tuesday and, in a chat with Catalan publication Sport, the Frenchman outlined the thought process behind Valverde's sacking in January.

He revealed they began to consider a change of coach after 0-0 Clasico draw at home to Real Madrid on December 18, with the former left-back claiming he and his colleagues had identified "many players weren't satisfied nor working hard and there was also an internal communication problem".

But Messi, who is rarely at the centre of controversy at the club, has called Abidal out over his comments, telling him he should name individuals rather than tar everyone with the same brush.

Writing on his official Instagram account and specifically highlighting a section of Abidal's quotes, Messi said: "I honestly don't like to do these things, but I think everyone has to be responsible for their tasks and take care of their decisions.

"The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch and we are also the first to recognise when we are not playing well.

"Those responsible for the area of ​​sports management must also assume their responsibilities and especially for the decisions they make.

"Finally, I think that when talking about players we should give names, because if not we are all getting dirtied and feeding things that are said but aren't true."

Barca are next in action on Thursday in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Athletic Bilbao – coach Quique Setien is due to address the media in his usual pre-match news conference on Wednesday, with the comments of Abidal and Messi likely to be high on the agenda.

Ousmane Dembele's Barcelona career was dealt another setback on Tuesday.

Barca announced the 22-year-old France international has sustained a complete proximal hamstring tear in his right leg and it is reported he will sit out the rest of the season.

Dembele has been plagued by injuries since arriving at Camp Nou from Borussia Dortmund for an initial €105million in August 2017.

The latest injury came as he stepped up his return from a right hamstring problem that has sidelined him since November.

 

The numbers

In total, injury problems have forced Dembele to miss 59 matches for the Catalan giants. That is equivalent to 40.4 per cent of the games Barca have played in LaLiga, the Copa del Rey, the Champions League and the Supercopa de Espana since his arrival.

The winger has played just 31.4 per cent of the total minutes that would have been available to him across all competitions had he not suffered any injuries at Barca.

Based on his transfer fee alone, he has cost the club a whopping €1.4million per match.

 

The problem

Luis Suarez is out until May after undergoing knee surgery. Carles Perez was allowed to join Roma on loan with an option, that could become an obligation, to buy. Abel Ruiz will spend the rest of the season at Braga and then complete an €8m transfer there. Francisco Trincao will not arrive from Braga in a €31m switch until the end of the campaign. Barca reportedly pulled the plug on a loan deal for former Villarreal striker Cedric Bakambu before the transfer deadline.

With Dembele set to miss a significant period of time, Barca are hamstrung in the attacking department and it is a mess of their own making.

Head coach Quique Setien had been counting on Dembele's seemingly imminent return to bolster his attacking options after the club failed to bring a new forward in during the January transfer window.

"The transfer market did not give us anything, but we will also recover Dembele," Setien said following a 5-0 victory over Leganes in the Copa del Rey last week.

"He is a player who has specific attributes and I think he can give us a lot. He feels comfortable out wide and we will try to take advantage of that.

"I'm sure he will give us a lot with the potential he has and will demonstrate the great player he is. Dembele is going to be amazing."

 

The solution?

Barcelona have instead looked to their B team to improve their depth, with Kike Saverio and Rey Manaj added to their Champions League squad for the rest of the campaign.

Ecuador-born striker Saverio won the UEFA Youth League in 2017-18 and is strong on both feet but has only scored four goals in 34 appearances for Barca B.

Former Inter attacker Manaj joined the second string for an initial €700,000 from second-tier side Albacete in January. He scored his first goal for the club a 2-1 win over Prat on Sunday, but his second outing ended before half-time as he was sent off for two bookable offences.

Although Ansu Fati notched a double in the 2-1 victory over Levante on Sunday, it has been reported Barca will look to sign a free agent from outside Spain as emergency cover.

Regardless of their next move, Barca will be at a significant disadvantage as they seek to retain their LaLiga title and push on in the latter stages of the Champions League.

Ousmane Dembele has been diagnosed with a complete hamstring tear in his right leg, Barcelona announced on Tuesday.

Dembele sustained the blow during a training session on Monday, having been stepping up his recovery from a right hamstring issue that has sidelined him since November.

While the club provided no time frame for his recovery, multiple reports in Spain claim Dembele will be forced to sit out the rest of the season.

A Barca statement read: "Tests carried out on Tuesday on Ousmane Dembele have shown that the player has a complete proximal hamstring tear in his right thigh.

"In the next few hours a decision will be made on the treatment to be followed for his recovery."

Dembele has only made nine appearances for Barca this season and spent a month out earlier in the campaign with a left hamstring injury.

The 22-year-old arrived from Borussia Dortmund for an initial fee of €105million in August 2017 but his time at Camp Nou has been blighted by injury.

He underwent surgery on his left hamstring one month after joining the club and did not return to action until January 2018.

Dembele suffered another strain in the same thigh four games after making his comeback and spent another month on the sidelines.

At the end of the 2018-19 season, a sprained ankle was followed by a left hamstring strain and a right hamstring injury to restrict his involvement in the team.

The latest setback will be a bitter blow for head coach Quique Setien, who was counting on Dembele's return to bolster his attacking options due to Luis Suarez being ruled out until May after undergoing knee surgery.

Setien stated Dembele would be an "amazing" addition when he regained fitness, with the club having failed to bring in a forward during the January transfer window.

"The market did not give us anything, but we will also recover Dembele," said the Barca boss.

"He is a player who has specific attributes and I think he can give us a lot. He feels comfortable out wide and we will try to take advantage of that.

"I'm sure he will give us a lot with the potential he has and will demonstrate the great player he is. Dembele is going to be amazing."

Ousmane Dembele has been diagnosed with a complete hamstring tear in his right leg, Barcelona announced on Tuesday.

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic could make a surprise move to Atletico Madrid ahead of next season.

The Croatia international is reportedly unhappy at Camp Nou and has been linked with a move away since the off-season.

Now, a stay in LaLiga could eventuate, but away from Barcelona.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO BEGIN TALKS WITH BARCELONA'S RAKITIC

Atletico Madrid are already negotiating with Rakitic about a possible move at the end of the season, according to Cadena SER.

The 31-year-old is contracted at Barcelona, where he arrived from Sevilla in 2014, until 2021.

Rakitic admitted on Sunday he considered leaving the club in January, and it seems a move is likely come season's end.

ROUND-UP

- Amid reported interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, James Maddison is close to agreeing a new contract with Leicester City, according to The Telegraph. Maddison has starred for the Premier League club this season and is poised to sign a lucrative long-term deal.

- Frank Lampard is set to face a battle at Chelsea. The Mirror reports the head coach wants to sell Kepa Arrizabalaga – who became the world's most expensive goalkeeper when he arrived at Stamford Bridge from Athletic Bilbao for a reported £71.6million (€80m) in 2018 – but is set to face resistance from the board.

- Atletico Madrid and Roma are interested in Manchester United midfielder Jesse Lingard, according to ESPN. Lingard is coming out of contract in 2021 but also holds a one-year extension option at Old Trafford.

- Are Milan set for another coaching change? Bild reports Red Bull's head of international relations and scouting, Ralf Rangnick, is in advanced talks to become the Serie A club's head coach and sporting director once the season is over. Stefano Pioli only took charge of Milan in October, replacing Marco Giampaolo.

- Inter almost signed Islam Slimani, who is on loan at Monaco from Leicester City, last month, according to CalcioMercato, which reports the Serie A club's move came late in January before collapsing.

Ousmane Dembele has suffered a setback in his attempt to return from a thigh injury for Barcelona.

Barca confirmed the 22-year-old felt "discomfort in his right leg as a consequence of muscle fatigue" in a training session on Monday.

The club added he would continue with his rehabilitation and did not provide a specific timeline for his return.

Dembele has not played since coming off in the first half of Barca's 3-1 home win over former club Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League group stage on November 27.

He was initially ruled out for 10 weeks and has only started three LaLiga matches this season, spending time in Qatar during his initial period of treatment.

New Barcelona head coach Quique Setien had discussed Dembele last week, saying he had no concerns about the club failing to sign a striker in the January transfer window because the forward will be "amazing" when he returns.

Dembele joined Barca for an initial €105million in August 2017 but has frequently struggled with injuries during his time in Spain.

Timo Werner is open to a move to the Premier League or LaLiga when the time comes for him to leave RB Leipzig.

Germany international Werner was expected to join Bayern Munich ahead of the 2019-20 as he entered the final year of his contract, but a switch did not materialise and he instead signed a new four-year deal with Leipzig.

The 23-year-old continues to be linked with English giants Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea as well as Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Werner has scored 25 goals in 28 games in all competitions for Leipzig this season and is happy with how things are going at the Red Bull Arena.

However, the striker is not ruling out testing himself overseas in the future.

"I can imagine playing abroad at some point, but there's no specific place will go. I'm open to everything," Werner told Kicker.

"When I was on holiday in America, English football was on all the time. But there also very well-known and big teams in Spain where it would for sure be fun to play.

"When you have scored 20 goals this season so far at the age of 23, you obviously attract interest. That's clear. But at the moment, I'm not thinking about what will happen in the future.

"We are now facing important matches that will be decisive for the rest of the season. That's what I want to concentrate on. I'll think about my future at a later point in time."

He added: "What do you say if in two weeks a club that is a contender for winning the Champions League wants to sign someone and makes a great offer? Every player would think about it.

"In my opinion, career planning is always relative. It comes how it comes – and then you have to deal with it at the right time."

Kylian Mbappe appears unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid are continuing to track the forward.

Mbappe was unhappy with head coach Thomas Tuchel after being substituted during PSG's 5-0 Ligue 1 win over Montpellier on Saturday.

The pair were apparently part of talks that seemingly did not go that well on Sunday, once again sparking Madrid's interest.

 

TOP STORY – REAL MADRID EYE MBAPPE AMID PSG TROUBLES

Real Madrid are tracking the situation of Kylian Mbappe at PSG, according to Mundo Deportivo.

The France international is out of contract in 2022 and Madrid would hope to land the forward for less than €300million next year.

Le Parisien reports Mbappe, Tuchel and PSG sporting director Leonardo met on Sunday, but the relationship between coach and player may be at the point of no return.

ROUND-UP

- Lautaro Martinez has starred for Inter this season, scoring 11 Serie A goals. Corriere dello Sport reports the Italian giants are keen to offer Martinez an improved contract amid reported interest from Barcelona, with the Argentina international's deal expiring in 2023.

- Despite scoring only four Serie A goals this campaign, Lorenzo Insigne could be set to earn a new deal at Napoli. Corriere dello Sport says the forward is set for talks over a contract extension, with his deal set to expire in 2022.

- Lille forward Victor Osimhen is attracting interest from LaLiga's two biggest clubs. The 21-year-old is already up to 16 goals this season and Lille were contacted by Real Madrid and Barcelona at the end of the January transfer window, according to Le10sport.

- Christian Eriksen apparently could have ended up at Juventus. CalcioMercato reports the Serie A leaders were seriously considering the midfielder in December before they landed Dejan Kulusevski, leading to Inter making their move for the Tottenham star.

Quique Setien praised Ansu Fati after the teenage forward helped Barcelona to a 2-1 win over Levante in LaLiga on Sunday.

Fati, 17, scored twice in the first half as Barca closed the gap to league leaders and rivals Real Madrid to three points.

He became the youngest player to score a brace in LaLiga in the 21st century, breaking a record previously held by Juanmi Jimenez.

Fati has netted five goals this season and Setien hailed him for stepping up for Barcelona, who are set to be without the injured Luis Suarez until the end of 2019-20.

"I think that Ansu is a boy that is emerging, that we all know that has great potential," head coach Setien told a news conference.

"You have to understand that you have to give him peace of mind and confidence to exploit what he has inside.

"Apart from the two goals, what I give credit is the work he has done in defence. He has worked hard. He has given us solutions."

Fati struck in the 30th and 31st minutes and Barcelona closed out their win despite Ruben Rochina's late goal for the visitors.

Setien was satisfied with his side's performance, although he expects further improvement.

"I am happy with many things, but not with everything. We have given up too many shots," he said.

"We made a very good first half, I think we could score more goals. We lost a little control in the second half and conceded too much.

"But it was a good job by the team."

Barcelona are in action again on Thursday, visiting Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

Ivan Rakitic admitted he considered leaving LaLiga champions Barcelona in January as the midfielder appeared to take aim at the club's board.

Rakitic was heavily linked to Serie A duo Juventus and Inter before the transfer window closed, while Manchester United were also reportedly interested.

It came as Rakitic was reportedly offered to Paris Saint-Germain as part of a deal to prise Neymar back to Camp Nou at the start of the season.

After Sunday's 2-1 win over Levante, Croatia veteran Rakitic vented his frustration.

"I thought about leaving in the January window," Rakitic, who played the entire game, said post-match.

"The treatment of [former head coach Ernesto] Valverde's staff wasn't the best.

"They were bad times but it's in the past now.

"I can say very clearly that there were things that I didn't like."

Ansu Fati's brace ensured Barca stayed within three points of leaders and rivals Real Madrid after 22 matches.

Rakitic has made 16 LaLiga appearances this season, and 24 across all competitions.

Ansu Fati said he still finds himself doubting whether his breakthrough season at Barcelona is "all real or not" after scoring a match-winning brace in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Levante.

Fati, 17, emerged at the start of the season and impressed with his performances for LaLiga champions Barca, despite being so young.

Injuries contributed to a slight decline in form towards the end of 2019, while recent displays left a lot to be desired, but he appeared to be back to his best against Levante.

Fati scored both of Barca's goals, with Lionel Messi setting each of them up, and generally caught the eye as a creative force as well.

In scoring his goals, Fati became the youngest player to net a LaLiga brace this century and he is struggling to comprehend the life he is living.

"I still have doubts about whether all this is real or not," Fati told Movistar when it was put to him that both goals were set up by Messi.

"I've been watching him play for many years, and now I play with him, it's a dream.

"This is a dream. I have always dreamed of this moment. I have to thank my team-mates and the coach for giving me the opportunity."

After going through a somewhat tricky period, Fati credits his team-mates with encouraging him.

"They just told me I have to keep improving and seize the opportunity," he said.

"My team-mates are making everything very easy for me. I have to thank them because it's not easy for a kid to come in, and they treat me so well."

Victory on Sunday moved Barca back to within three points of pacesetters Real Madrid.

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