Having taken time to digest the recent quotes attributed to Eric Abidal, I’m still not sure it wasn’t the work of a practical joker who’s having us all on.
Abi deserves our total respect for the way in which he conducted himself during his playing career, and the trophy lift at Wembley surely remains one of the biggest highlights for any cule.
However, as sporting director, do you get the feeling that he’s starting to leave a lot to be desired?
When the initial appointment was made, I admit to feeling shocked. Why? Because in 2015, the day before the elections in which Josep Maria Bartomeu triumphed, I was interviewing Joan Laporta one on one, and who was there and ‘beating the drum’ as it were... Eric Abidal.
Laporta’s way of working was hugely different to Bartomeu’s so I’m intrigued as to why he’d so readily accept a post with the latter in the first place.
That said, once he’d accepted the role, he would be judged accordingly.
To my mind, he’s been neither excellent nor poor, but his recent comments speak of a man that not only isn’t fully in tune with his staff, but who also doesn’t recognise the vast swathe of discontent from supporters on certain issues.
Where Ernesto Valverde is concerned, Abidal made it clear that the coach’s future is in his own hands, and, evidently, the club are perfectly happy to continue with him after this season should Valverde so wish.
Eric Abidal: "it's up to Valverde to decide if this is going to be his last season at Barça." pic.twitter.com/AZfGmUjRjL— Barcelona Worldwide (@BarcaWorldwide) November 17, 2019
That’s completely at odds with popular opinion. Even the most patient of supporters are becoming fed up with the safety first approach, and a perceived reticence to playing La Masia’s finest.
Yes, Ansu Fati is making his mark, but what of special talents such as Riqui Puig and Carles Alena? Abidal’s assertion that “Riqui is a total gamble for the club” is preposterous, whilst it looks fairly clear cut that Alena will move on, perhaps as soon as January.
Another one bites the dust.
An admittance that Neymar is still on the radar is no real surprise, but continuing support of Ousmane Dembele seems misguided.
[MD] | Eric Abidal: "We have started negotiations with Leo Messi and Ansu Fati for their contract renewal." pic.twitter.com/AnobU5KKfL— BarçaTimes (@BarcaTimes) November 16, 2019
We all want the Frenchman to succeed, and when he’s in the mood it’s easy to see why he would be an asset to the Blaugranes. But ‘when he’s in the mood’ doesn’t really cut it after all this time.
For a player of his evident quality, he needs to be putting in a shift in every single game, not just now and then.
Perhaps the most worrying statement in his interview was that the performances at Roma and Liverpool were ‘accidents.’
Any team can lose a game of course, but not learning your lesson - and particularly with a three-goal cushion again - is unforgivable.
The conclusion most will have drawn from Abidal’s words - carefully chosen too - is that the direction the board appear to be going in is the polar opposite from where the fans believe they should be... and that disconnect could take years to heal.