What part did Lionel Messi play in Eric Abidal's sacking?
French former international Eric Abidal shows the slip of Arsenal during the draw for the round of 32 of the UEFA Europa League football tournament at the UEFA headquarters in Nyon on December 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Fabrice COFFRINI

Just hours after Quique Setien was handed his P45 at Barcelona, their director of football and former player Eric Abidal followed him through the exit door as the club continue to ring the changes.

It was clear to everyone watching that there would be severe repercussions following the dismal 8-2 Champions League loss to Bayern Munich last week.

And president Josep Bartomeu has acted quickly in wielding the axe.

Setien was effectively a dead man walking from the moment Bayern were out of sight on that fateful night in Lisbon.

Abidal’s future was less clear, but a certain Lionel Messi may have played a part in his eventual dismissal – whether directly or indirectly.

It is no secret that the talismanic Argentine holds a huge amount of power at the club, with his talents the last positive Barcelona fans are clinging onto during this turbulent time.

And it was after his very public spat with Abidal earlier this year when things appeared to be really starting to unravel at the Nou Camp behind the scenes.

It all started when the Frenchman stated his belief to Barcelona-based publication Sport in February that ‘many players weren’t satisfied or working hard’ under previous manager Ernesto Valverde – seemingly suggesting it was their fault that he got the sack in January.

In an extraordinary move, Messi – who is not exactly known for his outspoken demeanor – took to Instagram the next day to slam Abidal for his comments.

What part did Lionel Messi play in Eric Abidal's sacking?
FC Barcelona Training – Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, Barcelona, Spain – January 18, 2020 FC Barcelona coach Quique Setien and Lionel Messi during training [REUTERS/Albert Gea]

He wrote: “The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch, and we have been the first to recognise when we were not good.

“The people in the sporting directorate should also assume their responsibility and above all take ownership of the decisions they make.

“Finally, I think that when players are talked about, names should be given because, if not, we are all being dirtied and it feeds comments that are made and are not true.”

This exchange led to rumours of an internal rift inside the club, and Abidal later appeared to back down on his comments, saying: “I’ve learned a lot of things during the past few days. Internal issues have to be resolved internally and not through the media.”

The damage may well have already been done, however, and the fact he has now left Barcelona suggests it is very much Messi calling the shots.

Perhaps he was unwilling to forgive Abidal for his comments – certainly, you never heard much good about the Frenchman’s relationship with the first team since then.

Rumours continue to circulate that Messi wants to move on, and it seems at this stage the club will give him anything he wants in order to try to keep him at the Nou Camp.

With Ronald Koeman set to take the reigns in the coming days, it will be intriguing to see how Messi reacts to the appointment, and whether it will placate his growing unrest or not.

One thing is for sure: player power is very much involved when it comes to what is going on behind the scenes at Barcelona.

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