The Argentine was denigrated in WhatsApp exchanges among former senior figures at Barcelona, a report has claimed.
Lionel Messi was the subject of vicious insults shared in messages between former senior figures at Barcelona, according to a report in the Catalan media. It is claimed that Messi was labeled a “sewer rat” and “hormonal dwarf” in one such exchange.
El Periodico says it has seen leaked messages from a WhatsApp group containing previous Barcelona board members, including former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, which reveal the “sharp animosity that the club’s leadership felt towards the heavyweights of the dressing room.”
In particular, there was said to be fury among members of the group at the end of January 2021 when Spanish outlet El Mundo leaked the alleged details of Messi’s blockbuster Barcelona contract – by which stage Bartomeu and other figures had left the club in disgrace.
Regarding Messi, Bartomeu is said to have been told by his former head of legal services, Roman Gomez Ponti, that “you can’t be such a good person with this sewer rat… The club has given him everything and he has dedicated himself to establish a dictatorship of signings, transfers, renewals, sponsors just for him.
“And above all, the accumulation of blackmail and disrespect that the club and those of us who work here have suffered from this hormonal dwarf who owes Barcelona his life… ah!” Gomez Ponti is alleged to have added.
“But when things go wrong (pandemic) you receive the famous WhatsApp message: ‘president, lower the salary of the others, but don’t touch me and Luis [Suarez]’. I hope he leaves amidst the indifference of the people, which is the worst thing that can happen to him.”
Other figures from the Barcelona dressing room including defender Gerard Pique and midfielder Sergio Busquets were also the targets of criticism, El Periodico has alleged.
Messi, 35, left Barcelona for French giants Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2021 after the Catalans were unable to keep him due to constraints under La Liga salary limits. By that stage, Joan Laporta had returned as club president following the departure of Bartomeu and the entire Barca board of directors in October of 2020. Bartomeu had faced major criticism after Messi requested to leave the club several months previously in the aftermath of a humiliating Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich.
As Barcelona’s all-time top scorer and widely acknowledged as their greatest ever player, Messi remains idolized by fans but endured more difficult relations with the hierarchy towards the end of his time at Camp Nou. It was claimed in February 2020 that senior Barca officials had even hired a PR company in a bid to smear key figures in the club – including Messi – and bolster the standing of Bartomeu. Those claims were later denied by Barcelona.
Messi joined Barca as a 13-year-old and went on to win a glittering array of titles during his time there, including ten La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns. Since moving to PSG, he has won the French Ligue 1 title and finally guided Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar last month.