Cesc Fabregas has suggested that current media reports linking Lionel Messi and his father Jorge to Colombian drug money is part of a concerted Madrid-based campaign against the Barcelona attacker and the Catalan club.
El Mundo caused a sensation this week with reports that Spanish investigators were looking into whether last summer’s 'Messi & Friends' exhibition matches had been used to launder the proceeds of drug trafficking, with Jorge Messi a suspect in the case.
The initial story was picked up by most other media in Spain, with El Pais also reporting that Jorge Messi would have to speak to the Guardia Civil investigators about the case. Some of the more sensationalist coverage -- on TV and online -- went further in their criticism of the Messis, with some even running polls on whether they thought Lionel should be jailed.
Fabregas told Mundo Deportivo that it was clear there was an ulterior motive behind such coverage -- hinting it was part of a plan to boost Real Madrid and their talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.
"There are people who want something new, who are tired of Barcelona always winning, that Barca are always the best," Fabregas said. "They want to win in other ways, or for someone else to mark the rhythm of world football. Leo Messi has been the best player in the world for many years, and now it seems when he is a little injured, or something comes out about him, he must be the bad guy. In football when you have many times been the best, there is a tendency for people to say negative things about one player, in order to praise another."
There is often a negative spin of Barcelona and Messi from pro-Madrid media, just as Catalan papers tend to support 'their side' -- and in this case have backed 'their man'. Mundo Deportivo say it has spoken with sources close to the Messi camp, who maintain that the only money paid to the Messis was 100,000 dollars donated from each of three Messi & Friends games last summer, which was donated straight to UNICEF in Argentina.
The Catalan paper managed to unearth copies of receipts 'proving' these donations were made, which they put on their cover on Thursday morning. They also said that -- contrary to El Mundo’s claims that Messi was paid 2.5 million dollars for the games -- he actually received no personal appearance fee. Although others who played in the Medellin game -- including Sergio Aguero, Robinho and Javier Mascherano -- may or may not have been paid directly by Argentine organising company Imagen Deportiva or their local partners in Colombia.
Mundo Deportivo also reported on Thursday morning that it was possible Blaugrana coach Gerardo Martino would leave the club next summer.
The paper -- which often follows a line set by the Barca board and president Sandro Rosell -- bases its story on a claim made on Argentine TV that 'Tata' was fed up with criticism of his methods and had told friends he was considering returning home. It also ran a story -- based on a two week old tweet from a small Brazilian publication -- saying Guus Hiddink had been lined up to replace Martino.