Lionel Messi calls media reports 'lies' and says he's not leaving Barcelona
Lionel Messi says recent speculation he was trying to force out Barcelona coach Luis Enrique are tantamount to "lies", adding he has "no intention" of leaving the Camp Nou for Chelsea or Manchester City.
The last week has brought fevered coverage in the Catalan press of an alleged breakdown in relationship between the blaugrana superstar and his first-year coach, with some outlets reporting that Messi had even given club president Josep Maria Bartomeu an ultimatum that Enrique had to go or Messi would leave.
Later in the week, reports surfaced that the 27-year-old could even leave the club this summer, with Chelsea seen as his most likely destination.
There were even reports that Messi wanted former coach Frank Rijkaard to return to the club in place of Enrique, and many felt a change was likely should Barca have lost Sunday's La Liga game with Atletico Madrid.
But speaking after he had scored and assisted on a Luis Suarez goal in a 3-1 win, the Argentine told Barca TV he was fed up with whoever was making such claims, and that he had never demanded anything to do with Enrique, nor did he have any intention of moving to another club.
"I am thankful to be able to give my version," said Messi. "It's not good for people to look for rivalry between me and Luis Enrique because there isn't any. Don't throw s--- at us from outside because that will only do us harm."
Messi went on to deny that he ever pushed to have Enrique sacked, nor did he ever make overtures to management for previous high-profile departures from Barcelona like Samuel Eto'o, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bojan or Pep Guardiola.
"It hurts because it comes from people who [supposedly] love Barcelona," said Messi. "It's people who want to hurt the club -- and this time it did not come from Madrid, like other times, it has come from here.
"I have heard lots of things being said about me before and now. They make it look like I am the one who is in charge here when I am just another player. I have never demanded anything to stay because I don't have any intention of going.
"I heard people say that my dad had spoken to Chelsea, to City. It's all lies."
Messi also praised his club's fans, who he said did not pay any notice to the erroneous reports that he had a problem with Luis Enrique.
"I have no reproach for the fans," he said. "They do not look for any rivalry between the coach and I."
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Speaking about the game, Messi said he was delighted with the win over an Atletico side that Barca faced six times without success last term.
"We knew it was going to be a very difficult game and that it would mark the future," he said. "It has got difficult for us since [Diego Simeone] arrived, but we went for them from the start. They are very difficult to play against. They have great players. But we controlled them."
Messi was involved in all the night's four goals, scoring the last and laying on Barca's first two for strike partners Neymar and Luis Suarez. He was also adjudged to have conceded the penalty from which Mario Mandzukic scored for Atletico.
"It was not a penalty, but until that moment they had not arrived at our goal," he said.
There was also praise for his two South American attacking colleagues.
"Luis scores a lot of goals and fights for all the balls as if they were the last," Messi said. "He gives us everything. And Neymar has a lot of things to give too, as is being seen."
The four time Ballon d'Or winner -- on the shortlist for the 2014 award which is being handed out on Monday evening in Zurich -- said he would accept either Cristiano Ronaldo or Manuel Neuer as worthy winners.
"It is difficult to win the Ballon d'Or," he said. "Whoever wins it will be deserved. Cristiano scored a lot of goals, and won the Champions League, and Neuer won the World Cup."