Messi linked with Barca exit

A ban on signing players until January 2016 imposed by FIFA and reported friction in the changing room between coach Luis Enrique and some of the players has led to speculation that Argentina star Messi is considering leaving.

The main headline from Barcelona-based sports newspaper Sport reads: “Breakup. Luis Enrique and Messi don’t even speak to each other.”

Spanish sports newspaper Marca claims Barca have not ruled making a coaching change, with the team rumoured to be unhappy with Enrique’s tactical and coaching methods.

Photographs of Messi and Enrique in Marca’s front page are followed by the headline: “In search of a pacifier.”

According to Marca, Barca captains Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta had to intervene to stop Enrique from reprimanding Messi after the South American failed to report to training on Monday.

Messi, who joined Barca’s youth team when he was 13, and Brazilian striker Neymar were left on the bench in Sunday’s 1-0 La Liga defeat at Real Sociedad but both came on as second-half substitutes.

Messi trained on Wednesday morning with the rest of his team-mates ahead of Thursday’s Copa del Rey match against Elche.

Catalan sports newspaper El Mundo Deportivo’s front page headline read “Key day”, with a photo of Messi training with Enrique watching him in the background.

El Mundo Deportivo also added: “(Barcelona president Josep Maria) Bartomeu acts to appease relations between Luis Enrique and Messi that damage Barcelona.”

Bartomeu will give a press conference on Wednesday afternoon following a heated week at the club.

Sunday’s defeat in San Sebastian meant Barca missed a chance to overtake Real Madrid at the top of the Primera Division after Carlo Ancelotti’s men lost 2-1 at Valencia.

The Catalan club then sacked sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta on Monday just one week after losing their appeal to overturn a one-year transfer ban imposed by FIFA for violating rules for registering youth players.

Former captain Carles Puyol left his role as Zubizarreta’s assistant hours later.

Zubizarreta has been heavily criticised for the club’s signings in the summer, which was Barca’s last opportunity to bring new players before January 2016.

Barca signed Luis Suarez from Liverpool but the Uruguay forward has struck just once in nine La Liga games.

Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen has been plagued by injuries and has not played for Barca since his #15million move from Arsenal in August.

Brazilian defender Douglas has also failed to impress, making just three appearances since joining the club from Sao Paulo in the summer.

Barca host Elche on Thursday in the Copa del Rey’s last 16 before facing defending La Liga champions Atletico Madrid on Sunday at the Nou Camp.