Messi tired of being Barcelona scapegoat after 'reign of terror' accusation

PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • A frustrated Lionel Messi said he is tired of being blamed for problems at Barcelona after he was accused by Antoine Griezmann's former agent of making life difficult for the France striker at the La Liga club.

Eric Olhats had accused Messi of having too much control at the club, saying his "reign of terror" had made life difficult for his former client since last year. The Frenchman has struggled since joining Barca from Atletico Madrid for €120 million (S$191 million). He scored just nine La Liga goals last term, the first time he did not hit double figures since the 2011-12 season.

"(Messi's) at the same time emperor and monarch, and he didn't see Antoine's arrival with a good eye," Olhats told France Football. "His attitude has been deplorable, he made him feel that... It is the regime of terror. Either you are with him or you are against him...

"(He is) as good on the pitch as he is bad off it. Barcelona has been suffering for a while. There was a cancer in that club, and it obviously leaves some marks."

Messi returned to Barcelona from international duty with Argentina on Wednesday when he was accosted by reporters at the airport.

"The truth is that I'm a little tired of always being the problem for everything at the club," Messi told Spanish media.

"On top of that, after a 15-hour flight, I had the tax authorities waiting for me. It's madness."

With one year left on his contract, Messi tried to activate a disputed clause to leave Barcelona for free in the off-season, but eventually decided to stay to avoid facing a legal battle with the club.

Barcelona have been in turmoil since an 8-2 humiliation by Bayern Munich in last season's Champions League quarter-finals. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned last month ahead of a vote of no confidence.

Messi has also had his run-ins with the Spanish tax authorities in recent years. He was handed a 21-month prison sentence in 2016 and ordered to pay a fine of €2 million for defrauding the Spanish government of €4.2 million over income earned from image rights. However, he did not serve any jail time after exchanging his sentence for a €250,000 fine.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2020, with the headline 'Messi tired of being Barcelona scapegoat after 'reign of terror' accusation'. Print Edition | Subscribe