Quique Setién, Josep Maria Bartomeu and Eric Abidal, in the presentation of the Cantabrian coach Albert Gea / Reuters
In August 2020, after the debacle in Lisbon against Bayern Munich, FC Barcelona began its sports restructuring. The first decision of the board then led by Josep Maria Bartomeu was to dispense with the sports director, Eric Abidal , and the coach of the first team, Quique Setién. The Frenchman, who had returned to the club in 2018, had lived two turbulent years at the Camp Nou, in which he had faced the decision of signings that did not finish curdling, the dismissal of Ernesto Valverde and a public reprimand from Lionel Messi. There was no more complex situation, in any case, than dealing with Neymar's frustrated return to the Camp Nou in the summer of 2019. “Ten days before the end of the transfer period, I went to Paris to speak with Leonardo [sports director from PSG]. If we hadn't signed Griezmann before, I think that 100% we could have signed Neymar again, ”Abidal told The Telegraph newspaper.
In 2017, Neymar slammed the door and paid the 222 million of his termination clause. He believed that the Ballon d'Or that he so desired would win as PSG leader. Two years later, he changed his mind and sought to return to the Camp Nou. The 10th was waiting for him with open arms; the directive, no. In March 2019, Bartomeu had already signed Griezmann despite having assured the captains of the first team that he would not do so. “The president decided to sign Griezmann. One of the arguments against Neymar was that he had a court case against the club, so it was not easy. They said that he would have to stop the judicial process if he wanted to return. That was not my problem because I was not at the club when that dispute happened. In my opinion, the player could have been signed. But it didn't happen, ”Abidal said. The Frenchman brought to light what in the Barcelona dressing room had already been talked about until they were fed up. In fact, Messi , who believed that the directors' trips to Paris had been a pause, had already expressed his opinion: “I don't think everything possible has been done to sign Neymar.”
The tension between the captain and Abidal It began with the Neymar issue and it became more acute when the club fired Ernesto Valverde in January 2020. "The president made the decision to renew Valverde, the opposite of what I had suggested," revealed Abidal. And he insisted on the same theory that had publicly confronted him with the Argentine. “In my opinion, the team needed to train harder. In my time with Guardiola, it was' do you want the best? Ok, you have to train like the best. You will win everything, only if you do the work during the week, ”said the former Barça sports director. A reflection similar to the one he had made in February 2020, after the dismissal of Txingurri: "Many players were not satisfied nor did they work a lot with Valverde." Words that Messi had already attacked. "I think that when talking about players, names should be given because if we are not all dirty and feeding things that are said and are not true," the Rosario had answered on social networks.
"I do not have to fix anything. with Messi. Our relationship has not changed from my point of view. From their point of view, I don't know. But for me the situation is over. We have exchanged many messages and he knows what I think. I didn't want to turn a small situation into a global situation and put the whole club in trouble ”, concluded Abidal.
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