When Barcelona issued a statement to confirm the sacking of Quique Setien on Monday they referred to his dismissal as the first move in a “restructuring of the first team”.
It was president Josep Bartomeu’s way of saying to the club’s members this current mess is the players’ fault and that he plans to get rid of at least some of them.
He followed it up on Tuesday with an interview with the club’s in-house television channel when he said: “Now it’s time to say goodbye to some of those players who have made us the best club in the world.
“I don’t want to talk badly about anyone but we have to start sending some of them off with full honours.”
The problem for Bartomeu, and it’s now Ronald Koeman’s problem too after the former Barca player and Netherlands coach was confirmed as new boss on Wednesday, is that moving players on is easier said than done.
By virtue of the fact that they were not mentioned by Bartomeu when he reeled off the names of players who were not for sale it seems Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba, Arturo Vidal, Luis Suarez, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti are all being encouraged to leave.
But the 33-year-old forward Suarez has indicated privately that he wants to see out the last year of his contract.
Vidal, also 33, has also, until now, been happy to stay put. Both players will be able to leave on free transfers when their deals run out in 2021.
The 32-year-old midfielder Busquets has a deal until 2023 and 31-year-old left-back Alba is contracted until 2024.
Limited success in terms of selling players would reduce the scope to buy new ones.
And the attempts to get rid of players closest to Messi, such as Suarez, Alba and Vidal could end up making the Argentinian Koeman’s biggest problem.
When Esporte Interativo reported Monday that Messi had told the Barcelona board he wants to leave the club this summer there was no denial issued by the player.
Spanish radio Cadena Ser reported Tuesday that Bartomeu had told Messi’s father Jorge that Koeman wanted to build his team around Messi.
But that Bartomeu was told by Jorge that he should speak directly to the player himself.Koeman arrives at a club which has a splintered dressing room divided down the middle.
Frenkie De Jong, Clement Lenglet, Nelson Semedo, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele were all name-checked by Bartomeu as players who would not be leaving.
He also said the club would not sell Ansu Fati despite having had offers for him.So there are the stayers and the leavers, and Messi in the middle not happy.
And there is just three weeks to go before the season starts.Koeman gave an interview to the programme “Parlem de futbol” on Catalan sports channel Esport3 last year in which he spoke about the ageing spine of the team.
“Suarez is over 30 years old, Messi is over 30 years old, Pique is over 30 years old, Busquets is over 30 years old,” he said.
“They still have a few seasons left but what happens then? “You will have a goalkeeper, but you will not have centre-back, pivot, centre-forward or Messi. So, good luck!”
Good luck indeed.