Barcelona sporting director Eric Abidal’s comments of ‘players not working hard under ousted coach Ernesto Valverde’ has not gone down well with Lionel Messi. Barcelona sacked Valverde in January and replaced him with Quique Setien, with Abidal claiming several player were unsatisfied under the former coach, in an interview with Spanish newspaper Diario Sport.

It prompted Messi to hit back at Abidal in an Instagram post, circling an image of the sporting director’s quote before eventually deleting it.

“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,” Messi wrote.

“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.

“Finally I think that when you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it makes everyone dirty and gives air to things that are said which are not true.”

The row seems to have ignited a move from English side Manchester City, whose sources have claimed that the club is ready to chalk out a deal for Messi, if he decides to leave the club. The 32-year-old reportedly has a clause in his contract that would allow him to leave the club for free at the end of the season.

Abidal however, said Messi was happy being at Barcelona and that a new contract is in plans for the Argentine striker. They played together at Camp Nou between 2007 and 2013, but things seem to have gone awry ever since the Frenchman commented on Valverde’s sacking.

“Many players weren’t satisfied or working hard and there was also an internal communication problem,” he had said.

“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].”