Lionel Messi hits back after Eric Abidal accuses Barcelona players of not 'working hard' for Ernesto Valverde

Club captain takes exception to interview by sporting director

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Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has taken the rare step to publicly criticise a member of the club's hierarchy after responding to comments made by sporting director Eric Abidal.

Abidal, who was Messi's teammate for six years, gave an interview in which he appeared to suggest many Barca players did not work hard enough under former manager Ernesto Valverde, who was sacked in January and replaced by Quique Setien.

"Many players weren't satisfied or working hard and there was also an internal communication problem," the former France international full-back told  Spanish newspaper Diario Sport.

"The relationship between the coach and the dressing room has always been good but there are things as an ex-player that I could smell. I told the club what I thought and we reached a decision [on Valverde]."

However, Messi has taken exception to Abidal's comments by saying his former teammate has no grounds for accusing players' work rates and believes any struggles the club experience are the responsibility of all involved, not just the squad.

"When you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it gives air to things which are not true," the 32-year-old Argentine superstar wrote on Instagram.

"Sincerely, I don't like to do these things but I think that people have to be responsible for their jobs and own their decisions.

"The players [are responsible] for what happens on the pitch and we are the first to admit when we haven't been good. The heads of the sports department have to take their responsibilities too and above all own the decisions they make."

Reigning champions Barcelona are second in La Liga, three points behind rivals Real Madrid.