Cesc Fabregas believes those criticising Lionel Messi have grown "tired of Barcelona always winning" and hints the condemnation coming out of Spain's capital could be a source of jealousy from Real Madrid.
As reported by Mundo Deportivo, and via Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC, the Barcelona midfielder believes Messi is subject to abuse from those who wish to paint him as a villain:
There are people who want something new, who are tired of Barcelona always winning, that Barca are always the best.
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.
Messi has recently come under fire, alleged to have avoided the payment of taxes, per BBC News.
Corrigan's report also notes the player has been accused of using his "Messi & Friends" exhibition matches in order to launder money made from drug trafficking, although Joan Poqui of Mundo Deportivo suggests the only funds fired Messi's way were the installments of $100,000 he immediately donated after the three individual matches, as proven with an alleged copy of receipts.
Many of the anti-Messi stories have come from Madrid-based press, forcing Fabregas to speak out on La Sexta, as reported by Ben Hayward of Goal.com.
"There are people taking advantage to say things they shouldn't, with no facts or proof," said the former Arsenal midfielder.
Messi is currently doing battle with Cristiano Ronaldo for the Ballon d'Or. The Argentinian star is recovering well from his hamstring troubles, per BBC Sport, but he's arguably fallen behind Ronaldo in the running for FIFA's top individual accolade.
BACK IN BUSINESS: Lionel Messi is to return to training at Barcelona on January 2. http://t.co/tEsxTbyq83— Eurosport.com EN (@EurosportCom_EN) December 18, 2013
Madrid press are sure to know this and may be baiting Barca into an angry response. Fabregas' comments appear forthright and frustrated, underlining the continued negativity surrounding Messi from some corners of the Spanish national press.
Quite remarkably, Corrigan's report even notes how Sport.es ran a poll asking whether Messi should be jailed for off-the-field allegations of which he has never been proven guilty.
Messi can expect plenty more testing headlines across the coming weeks as both his court case and quest for the Ballon d'Or continue.
The legendary player usually appears calm under pressure but won't have the opportunity to hush criticism on the pitch until he recovers full fitness heading into the new year.