Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Jordi Alba kicked up a fuss but the rest of the dressing room stayed SILENT after Lionel Messi’s transfer request… young players don’t want to upset the club and Antoine Griezmann knows he can BENEFIT from his departure
- The silence from Barcelona’s dressing room over Lionel Messi has been telling
- When Neymar looked to leave in 2017, a number of senior players spoke out
- Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Jordi Alba are Messi’s closest allies in the squad
- Antoine Griezmann has kept quiet as he could benefit most from Messi leaving
- Sportsmail takes a look at the squad dynamics after Messi’s transfer request
The silence from Barcelona players over Lionel Messi’s transfer request contrasts with the noise made when Neymar wanted to leave.
He is still in the telephone chat groups, so why aren’t the other members making it known he should stay?
Sportsmail looks at the dividing lines within the Barcelona dressing room and asks what players are in which group
Lionel Messi has found little support in the dressing room as he looks to leave Barcelona
His closest circle of friends in the Barcelona dressing room is made up of Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Jordi Alba.
The three have one thing in common: they were not on Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu’s famous list of ‘untransferable’ players announced when Ronald Koeman was presented.
Suarez was later told by Koeman in a 60-second telephone call that he was to be given a free-transfer.
Luis Suarez (middle) is Messi’s closest friend in the squad and the two players regularly holiday together. But with Suarez being pushed out, support for the star attackers has been limited
Former Barcelona captain Carles Puyol praised the move and Suarez applauded his tweet
Arturo Vidal (left) and Jordi Alba (right, with Messi) also form part of the player’s inner circle
Vidal was told he was also not wanted and that he should find another club and Alba has a contract until 2024 so he is harder shift.
There are also no better left-backs at the club so it looks as though he will stay.
Suarez is Messi’s best ally on and off the pitch and it was no surprise that when Carles Puyol publicly supported Messi’s burofax that Suarez applauded him on social media.
The other senior players
It’s not true to say that Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets are also in Messi’s ‘tight circle’. The three are pals. How could they not be after a footballing friendship that stretches back two decades? But that does not mean they are always on the same page regards every decision the club makes.
At the start of the season Messi backed Ernesto Valverde to be kept on and he opposed the change of coach in January. Pique and Busquets were more in favour of a change at the start of the year.
Pique is also wary of making the same mistake as with Neymar. His famous ‘Se queda’ [he stays] tweet is still thrown back at him. He does not want to be wrong about Messi’s future.
Gerard Pique (left) and Sergio Busquets (right) are not always on the same page as Messi
After Pique’s infamous ‘Se queda’ (He stays) tweet about Neymar – before the Brazilian left for £198m to PSG – the Spaniard is reluctant to speak on Messi in case it is thrown back in his face
Both Busquets and Pique also know the club is in a different place to where it was in 2017 when Neymar left.
Then it seemed important to keep the famous front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar together to keep the team winning. Now regardless of whether Messi stays this feels like the end of a glorious cycle.
If Messi stays then good, if he doesn’t, well it’s just another sign of the end of an era. They are not in any rush to position themselves either way.
The possible beneficiaries
Without Messi and Suarez – and even more so if Barcelona cannot make the Lautaro Martinez transfer work – then the emphasis will be on Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele to lead the forward line and score the goals.
Suarez and Messi scored or assisted 70 per cent of Barcelona’s 110 goals last season so they have a big job on. But Griezmann, in particular, has the desire to step-up.
His relationship with Messi and Suarez, in particular, was good, the three met in Ibiza in the break between the end of the season and the Champions League. But clearly he finds himself in a very different camp regards the future of the team.
Antoine Griezmann (far left) stands the most to gain if both Suarez and Messi (right) depart
Ronald Koeman is keen to play Griezmann where Messi likes to operate and so it is a tough spot
The Messi-Suarez partnership is history. Griezmann appears to be the future.
Koeman has already spoken about how he wants to get Griezmann in the position where he operates best (which is pretty much where Messi likes to play).
It wouldn’t be true to say Griezmann wants Messi to leave. But in football terms he benefits from the break-up of the Suarez-Messi double-act that made it hard for him to find his right place in the team.
In those circumstances he is not going to be publicly taking sides by backing a player currently at war with the board.
The younger players
Frenkie de Jong has already said: ‘I am definitely not the person that needs to talk with Messi to convince him. I am sure that a lot of people have spoken to him’.
This reflects the attitude from the younger players that this is something they need to stay out of until it is concluded either way.
If they side with Messi then they upset the club. And if they side with the club they upset Messi.
In the first instance they bite the hand that feeds them. In the second they make an enemy of a team-mate who might still be a team-mates in two months.
Best to say nothing.
Frenkie de Jong was quizzed on Messi recently but young players are reluctant to pick a side
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