Former Barcelona coach Radomir Antic believes that Lionel Messi deliberately stayed away from the action during the Catalans' 1-0 Champions League defeat against Atletico Madrid in order to show his dismay with Gerardo Martino's decision to shunt him out wide.
The Argentina international was heavily criticized after running just 6.8 kilometers as Barcelona crashed out of the Champions League and Antic has likened Messi's situation to that of Rivaldo under Louis van Gaal during the 1999-2000 campaign.
Van Gaal insisted on playing the Brazilian on the left wing against his will, leading to a strained relationship between the two.
"Messi did not do much running because the coach told him to play as a winger. This was Messi's way of saying 'If you want me to play on the wing, I will do just that'", Antic told Goal.
"This situation is pretty similar to what happened between Van Gaal and Rivaldo. Van Gaal forced Rivaldo to play on the left and each time he got the ball, he just passed it back to Winston Bogarde.
"It is clear that Barcelona have a major problem. How are they going to accommodate Messi, Neymar and Andres Iniesta in one team?
"I don't think Messi will accept playing as a winger after everything he has done for Barcelona. He will say 'If you want me on the wing, I will play there, but whether I will get involved in the game is another thing...'."
Antic then went on to voice his surprise with Cristian Tello's limited game time this season after his fine performances last term.
"We are all talking about Messi, Neymar and Iniesta, but we forget one of the revelations of last season, Tello. He offers something that Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and the others don't have and brings a lot to the team.
"And then there's another problem and that's that good players don't always make up a good team. I think this is Barcelona's problem at the moment."
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- Radomir Antic
- Louis van Gaal