Lionel Messi and Luis Enrique harmony benefits Barcelona

Barcelona manager Luis Enrique claims his side’s recent form has nothing to do with the reported fall-out between himself and Lionel Messi following La Blaugrana’s 1-0 defeat to Real Sociedad during the first week of January.

Speaking after La Blaugrana’s 5-2 defeat of Athletic Bilbao, Enrique stated he hasn’t changed his tactics – or approach with his players.

“That is an invention of the media, we haven’t changed,” the Barcelona boss said. “This is the same Barca in the same circumstances as before. The players aren’t robots. We all make mistakes. There isn’t some magic key which you can press to change everything. I always want the team to leave a good impression but that’s not always possible.”

When asked about the recent form of Messi (who has notched eight goals and four assists in Barcelona’s past four matches), Enrique responded: “It’s a great privilege to have a player like Messi. But the recognition should be for the whole team when they put in a performance like tonight’s. You make yourself stronger when objectives are assumed collectively which is what this team is doing right now.”

The manager and Messi were reportedly at odds following Enrique’s decision to start his star Argentine on the bench for Barcelona match against Real Sociedad in early January.

Rumors surfaced in the Spanish press claiming that Messi had spoken to club officials and demanded the Barca boss be fired. The manager’s tactics and man-management were questions by journalists and pundits; and speculation was Enrique’s days were numbered at the Catalan club.

Everyone involved denied there was any rift between Messi and his manager. The player himself gave a lengthy interview were he professed his loyalty to the club and his respect for Enrique.

Since the setback at Anoeta, Barcelona have let their play on the pitch do their talking. Enrique’s side have played nine matches in all competitions and have recorded nine wins. Barca have outscored their opponents 34-7 during that span, with Messi tallying ten goals and seven assists.

The Argentina international’s form has ended the speculation surrounding his relationship with Luis Enrique – for now.

With Real Madrid searching for answers and struggling with form – and Messi leading a revived Barcelona attack – the Catalan club have narrowed their rival’s lead in the La Liga standings.

Following Los Blancos 4-0 thrashing in the Madrid derby and Barca’s 5-2 victory over Athletic Bilbao at the new San Mames, Enrique’s side now trail Real Madrid by a single-point on the La Liga table.

The Catalan club is clearly benefitting from the newfound harmony between its manager and his star player.

It may never be known whether Enrique and Messi decided to set their differences aside for the better of the club, or if there was any conflict between the two men in the first place. But so long as Barcelona continue their march towards a La Liga title, their supporters won’t care.

 

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