Barcelona coach refuses to get ‘into Messi’s life’ after Abidal row

Barcelona defender Eric Abidal, right, celebrates with teammate Lionel Messi after a goal against Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp stadium in Barcelona on February 5, 2011. (Reuters)
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Updated 06 February 2020

Barcelona coach refuses to get ‘into Messi’s life’ after Abidal row

  • Messi hit back at Abidal after the Frenchman had earlier blamed slackness in the dressing room for the departure of recently-fired boss Ernesto Valverde
  • Setien denied he had spoken individually to the Argentina star about the incident but said it had been briefly discussed in a training session by the squad

BARCELONA: Barcelona coach Quique Setien said on Wednesday he would not get involved in “Lionel Messi’s life” after the Argentine superstar became entangled in a row with the club’s sporting director Eric Abidal.
Messi hit back at Abidal on Tuesday after the Frenchman had earlier blamed slackness in the dressing room for the departure of recently-fired boss Ernesto Valverde.
In an interview with Spanish newspaper Sport, Abidal said under Valverde, who was fired in mid-January, many players had been unhappy, had not worked hard enough and had not communicated properly.
“I’m not going to get into Messi’s life, or anyone’s life,” said Setien, who replaced Valverde.
“What interests me is football, everything else are situations that I will not be able to control, therefore I do not sweat on it,” the 61-year-old added.
Setien denied he had spoken individually to the Argentina star about the incident but said it had been briefly discussed in a training session by the squad.
Messi signed his last contract extension in 2017, with his current deal running through to next year but reportedly containing a clause that could allow him to quit Barcelona in June.
Former Real Betis boss Setien said Messi’s behavior remained the same despite the falling out with Abidal.
“I have seen him smiling, I have seen him looking happy, he loves to come to training, he loves to be here and I have seen him just like he was yesterday or the day before yesterday,” Setien said.
Setien said his only focus was Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final tie at Athletic Bilbao.
“The importance of tomorrow’s match, the obligation we have is to focus totally and absolutely on the match,” Setien said.
Spanish media reported later on Wednesday, citing sources close to the club, that Abidal had met with Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu who would no longer consider, as speculated beforehand, to demand the Frenchman’s resignation.
Messi on Tuesday criticized Abidal’s comments, saying that his former teammate should “name names.”
“Sincerely I don’t like doing this kind of thing but everyone has to be made responsible for their actions and what they say,” Messi said on Instagram.
“We the players in the dressing room are the first to admit it when we haven’t played well. The directors need to take their responsibilities too.
“I believe that if you talk about the players (in this way) you should name names instead of worrying everyone and encouraging rumors that are far from certain.”
Barcelona visit Real Betis on Sunday in La Liga, where they trail leaders Real Madrid by three points.


Saudi Cup ‘double or nothing’ with two horses in $20m race for leading agent Ted Voute

Updated 4 min 13 sec ago

Saudi Cup ‘double or nothing’ with two horses in $20m race for leading agent Ted Voute

  • Voute has been responsible for the purchase of six horses featuring in this weekend’s Saudi Cup meet
  • Since 1986 Voute has produced horses for the world’s premier sales on behalf of the some of the best-known breeders

LONDON: Securing a win in today’s $20 million Saudi Cup would be one of British bloodstock agent Ted Voute’s “greatest” achievements, the leading consignor said in the build-up to the world’s richest race.
Voute has been responsible for the purchase of six horses featuring in this weekend’s Saudi Cup meet, including two in the headline race.
Mjjack, a recent winner of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup, as well as Great Scot, were bought from the UK for owner Prince Faisal bin Khaled bin Abdul Aziz.
“Great Scot gets in (to the Saudi Cup) by virtue of being the highest-rated horse in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I bought him late last year from Tom Dascombe in England. He hasn’t started there yet, but he’s a lovely horse,” Voute told Arab News.
“The other horse, Mjjack, I bought a couple of years ago. He won the King’s Cup (on Feb. 8), which gave him a free place, so I’m particularly proud of those two runners.
“It would be right up there if I bought the first Saudi Cup winner, it would be one of the greatest things I had ever done,” he added.
Since 1986 Voute has produced horses for the world’s premier sales on behalf of the some of the best-known breeders. In the past three decades, his consistent results in the sales ring and on the track have confirmed him as one of Europe’s leading consignors.
Voute has also bought several horses for another Saudi owner, Prince A.A. Faisal, including Mishriff, which runs in the Saudi Derby, one of the races going off before the Saudi Cup.
“From the prince’s point of view, Mishriff is named after a good friend of his who died and it would mean an immense amount to him (if the horse won),” he said. “It would be a wonderful story if, in his first race back as a three-year-old, he wins the Saudi derby as a preparation race to a Classic run.”
With several clients in Saudi Arabia, Voute is well placed to comment on the achievement by Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al-Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, in setting up a top-class racing meet in such a short time.
“It’s amazing, really, I don’t think there has been a day with that much prize money in history. It has definitely grabbed people’s attention,” he said. “I was in a taxi from the airport with the trainer of Maximum Security, and (he said) he got a passport for the first time to travel outside the US to be in Saudi Arabia, which I thought was fantastic.
“To think this was only an idea not even a year ago. I saw Prince Bandar at Royal Ascot, and I think that’s where (Saudi Arabia) made the decision — and it’s just unbelievable what they’ve done from June to now. A lot of wealthy owners will venture out to Saudi Arabia and see what a wonderful country it is.
“It will show people they can travel in winter and pick up these sorts of races and prize money; it will really put Saudi Arabia on the calendar as a stepping stone to one of the European Classics,” he said.