After FC Barcelona's latest LaLiga game, superstar Lionel Messi did something fans have not seen much of from the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, while there are a few other things seemingly bothering the Argentine. Is the forward unhappy at the club?
It has been a tough two weeks for Messi and Barca, who were knocked out of the UEFA Champions League by Liverpool earlier this month in hauntingly familiar fashion. It was the second time the Catalans threw away a 3-0 aggregate lead in as many years to get dumped out of Europe, but this time was more heartbreaking than before.
Total dominance is how the team's form in Spanish domestic competition has been described in recent years, but in Europe, it was their arch-rivals Real Madrid, much inspired by Cristiano Ronaldo, who dominated.
Barca have won six LaLiga titles since 2010/11, and 10 titles since the 2004/05 campaign, while they have won six Copa del Rey trophies since 2008/09, with their last three coming consecutively. And the Blaugrana could still win another this year. But when it comes to the Champions League, they have continuously fallen short.
At the beginning of the campaign, Messi announced to the Camp Nou that he and his teammates would do everything they possibly can to bring the UCL trophy back to the club, with their last win coming in the 2014/15 season. They look destined to achieve their goal, with captain Messi appearing unstoppable at times, but as was the case last season, their dreams came crashing down on them.
Conceding four goals at Anfield in what was the team's worst performance of the season, Barca were knocked out of Europe just one match before the final. It was yet another collapse in a crucial moment, and it is yet another season that goes by without Messi getting his hands on that trophy. Let's also bear in mind that he has won the competition on four occasions compared to Ronaldo's five. It was a result that, by manager Ernesto Valverde's admission, left a bad taste in Messi's mouth.
After that game, Messi reportedly broke down in the dressing room, perhaps because he felt the rest of his teammates did not meet him halfway. The Argentine scored 12 goals in Europe this season, a tally that included a hat-trick and four braces.
After that night at Anfield, Spanish publications claimed the 31-year-old look dejected on the training ground, but it was in their latest match, against Getafe last Sunday, when it was completely visible. Messi walked around the pitch, didn't crack a smile, not even when he thought he'd scored his team's second goal.
Then something even more surprising happened – Messi walked off the field without acknowledging the home crowd. He headed for the tunnel with a withdrawn look upon his face, which, considering what he means to the faithful fans, was quite telling.
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The Argentine also voiced his discontent with how supporters have been treating Philippe Coutinho, whose attempts at winning back the fans seem to be vain. Messi recently called for the Camp Nou to stop whistling the Brazilian, instructions they haven't followed. Every time the former Liverpool star touched the ball against Getafe, he was met with jarring boos, with reports now suggesting he will be on his way out of the club in the next transfer window.
Whatever it is that is bothering Messi, it is clear he is hurt by the events of recent weeks. What might soften the blow is one or two marquee signings ahead of the next campaign, perhaps somebody such as Antoine Griezmann…
Do you think Messi has the right to be upset with Barca's Champions League disaster, or is he partly to blame? Let us know in the comments section below.