Lionel Messi Row, Club Elections: What Week of Crisis Means for Barcelona

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2015

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 07: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona and Eric Bailly of RCD Espanyol fight for the ball during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on December 7, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)
Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Lionel Messi will be staying at Barcelona, Luis Enrique will be leaving, Joan Laporta will be president again in the summer, the storm clouds above the Camp Nou will roll away and the good times will come flooding back in.

At least that's the theory. The likelihood is that now the club have called the elections a year early, in summer 2015 rather than 2016, the storylines involving Messi, Enrique and Laporta will come true.

Messi was clearly agitating in recent weeks, and Sport's Javier Miguel explains how his relations with Enrique have always been frosty, before they totally froze over. He wrote:

Relations between Luis Enrique and Lionel Messi are broken. They don't speak. And it's not the result of a bad moment, of a bad day. The story is long, very long. In fact, it goes back to the first press conference of the Asturian coach.

Miguel explains how Messi and other Barcelona players did not like Enrique's words which made him seem self-important.

Messi was already upset that Cesc Fabregas and Jose Manuel Pinto had left, kitman Txema Corbella's sacking had upset a lot of players and then he heard that Pepe Costa, a close friend and member of the technical staff, was next in line.

Bartomeu stopped Enrique from sacking the assistant, which briefly eased the tension. But it all kicked off again after Barcelona lost to Celta Vigo, with the two virtually refusing to speak to one another.

Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press

Messi missing the open training session on Monday was just the catalyst for the recent chain of events, but the chemicals were already in place.

Flirting with Chelsea was a way to provoke change at Barcelona, all the way up to board level, and he's managed it.

Any new president will do their utmost to keep Messi happy, and that includes getting rid of Enrique.

If the Asturian survives until the end of the season, the new president will almost certainly bring his own man in.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Enrique is now a dead man walking. It's debatable if he will even get the chance to finish the campaign, because current president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, will be in the running in the summer.

If things don't go well in the league, perhaps Bartomeu will take a gamble, sack Enrique and appoint Xavi as player-manager in a bid to raise support.

Agusti Benedito and Victor Font are two other candidates, but the main contender will be former Barcelona president Laporta.

As Josep Capevila says in Sport's analysis of the potential candidates:

Many consider him the best president the club has ever had, thanks to the sporting success of the team under Pep Guardiola. However, his reign also had its dark spots.

After hearing the call for elections he tweeted: 'Now more than ever we must encourage the team for the good of the club. In regard to the elections, I will speak when I see the right opportunity and always with the desire to maintain the stability of the club.' In all surveys of recent weeks, he's been the favourite to win the election.

A return for Laporta could mean a lot of things. Perhaps even Carles Puyol could return.

The former player and recent assistant to Andoni Zubizarreta quit earlier this week, presumably because he didn't want to be associated with the current shambles. But he did say that he hoped to return in the future, and the future may come pretty quickly.

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