Barcelona is a club where values such as togetherness and respect are not only welcome but expected. As a long-life Cule who has seen our unique philosophy rise in conjunction with a remarkable amount of success, I must admit that I found the Messi-Villa scene during the Granada match extremely disappointing.
On the one hand, we had David Villa, the highly-professional footballer who had just recovered from a long-term tibia injury and was simply trying to do his very best to come back to the team that missed him so dearly last season.
On the other, there was Leo Messi, the player who is widely recognised as the best footballer on Earth and carried the team forward during Villa's absence, trying to ensure his beloved Barcelona team reach optimum form as soon as possible.
This is what the players actually said to each other:
Messi, visibly annoyed: "First-touch pass, Guaje, first-touch!"
David Villa, surprised by his reaction: "Leo, I couldn't even control the ball! It's the first ball I've touched today and was going to pass it to you!"
As I explained in my match report, I definitely didn't enjoy seeing two of our best players jumping down each other's throat. I am certain that throwing your toys out of the pram whenever your team-mates don't pass you the ball as quickly as you would like is not one of the many values Barcelona youngsters are required to learn at La Masia.
Having said that, and as someone who plays football on a regular basis and has done so from a very early age, I do understand that Messi's reaction only came from his desire to improve the situation - Leo wanted his team to react, up the tempo and, ultimately, win the match to stay top of La Liga.
Still... wrong way to show your frustration. A quieter word of correction, perhaps mixed with a hint of encouragement, would have sufficed. A bad move indeed which I certainly don't want to see ever again from our star player.
To be honest, I have seen similar attitudes from La Pulga towards Tello, Cuenca and Thiago before. Tito spends hours trying to find ways to make his players less dependent on Messi, encouraging them to look at all of the available passing options instead of simply giving him the ball when under pressure. Being shouted at for minor mistakes definitely won't help the situation.
Tito Vilanova had a very hot potato in his hands. The situation could have easily been blown out of proportion, bringing unnecessary instability to our squad.
Tito was quick to explain: "Whoever plays football knows discussions are a normality, and part of the game. Such occurrences are common signs that a team is alive. Not exchanging views for betterment would honestly suggest worse."
Messi himself also offered his own version of the story: “People shouldn’t look for a problem where there isn’t one. These things are part of football, with the tension of wanting to score to make everything easier and win. It happens in training and in matches as well. I haven’t got any problems with El Guaje, quite the opposite. These things show the character of the team to want to win and keep on playing well. We get ‘heated’ because we want the best and the tension makes you react like that."
While that is the politically correct answer any of us would expect in front of the media, I hope that Tito can also find a moment to sit down with Messi and discuss the situation further. The way you handle star players can define a manager's career and, for the benefit of Barcelona as a whole, I hope Tito is able to remind Leo that disrespecting others is not the best way to achieve collective success.
The match against Sevilla is next Saturday. Tito, Villa and Messi must discuss and solve the situation before then, ensure they stick together and move on. I have no doubts that our players can learn from this unfortunate situation and turn it into a positive in the near future.
As our anthem proudly estates: Tots Units Fem Forca (“Together We Are Stronger”)
Let's do just that.
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PA PhotosLionel Messi and David Villa had a row against Granada