Lionel Messi has been accused of “taking the p*ss” after football fans latched onto a viral video showing the Barcelona star allowing a Dynamo Kyiv player to cruise past him during their Champions League meeting on Wednesday.
Despite facing a depleted Dynamo Kyiv team ravaged by coronavirus, Barcelona only labored to a 2-1 win at the Nou Camp thanks to an early penalty from Messi and a second-half header from Gerard Pique.
Viktor Tsygankov’s 75th-minute goal for the visitors ensured a nervous finish for Ronald Koeman’s team, who again underwhelmed even though they picked up a third win from three Champions League games to keep them top of Group G.
Messi’s fifth-minute penalty was his fourth goal of the season, all of which have come from the spot as the Argentine star’s drought from open play continued.
It was a frustrating night on which Messi also had a goal-bound free-kick tipped over the bar by 18-year-old Kyiv goalkeeper Ruslan Neshcheret, who produced an inspired performance on his first-team debut and was only called on after two of Dynamo’s regular ‘keepers tested positive for Covid-19.
📸 – A perfect freekick from Messi denied by Neshcheret who is showing the world how good he is at goalkeeping, at only 18 years old. pic.twitter.com/nVqpzDhnaX
— 💎 (@TheEuropeanLad) November 4, 2020
Following a turbulent summer in which he came as close as ever to quitting Barcelona, Messi, 33, faces continued questions over his commitment to the Blaugrana cause despite club president Josep Maria Bartomeu – who was seen as a key reason for Messi’s desire to leave – being forced out at the end of October.
Football fans seized on one particular clip from Wednesday’s game against Dynamo to claim that Messi is less enthused than ever about putting in a shift for his team.
As Dynamo advanced into the Barcelona half in search of an equalizer deep into injury time, the Barca skipper failed to even attempt a challenge, continuing to stroll as an opposition player waltz past within a couple of meters.
The clip duly went viral with numerous fans citing it as proof of Messi’s supposed indifference to Barcelona’s fate.
“Messi doesn’t care if Bartomeu resigned or about his current €50m net yearly salary… he just wants out of Barca,” claimed one Twitter user with a profile picture of perennial Ballon d’Or rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
“This is the difference between Messi and Ronaldo, mentality,” wrote another, while one fan claimed that the 35-year-old Portuguese star “would never do that.”
Other fans claimed the lack of exertion was clearly symptomatic of a ‘toxic’ relationship with the club, while some accused Messi of ‘taking the p*ss’ with his lackluster approach.
Lionel messi represents a person who’s in a toxic relationship which they don’t want to be a part of, but can’t let go. https://t.co/ZiPgImI9e5
— Saubhagya Chauhan (@MsFahrenheit29) November 5, 2020
This is pathetic. I’m all for the greatest player of time saving energy, and not running around like a headless chicken. But this is absurd, he’s talking the piss now.
— Jason (@jasoncoward13) November 5, 2020
Messi fans mobilized to defend the star, claiming there was ‘an agenda’ against him and noting that the clip was from late in the game – but that was an excuse which did not hold water with rival fans.
1. It was 10 seconds left of the game2. Messi has played 10 90min games in the last 5 weeks including 2 tough one’s in South America. Chill pic.twitter.com/JKZjYJ4ByJ
— mx (new acc) (@MessiMX10i) November 5, 2020
93rd minute video when whistle was in referees mouth. Agenda against Messi is damn high man 😅😂
— Amit (@SUPERLM10) November 5, 2020
They’re 2-1 up with seconds left, shouldn’t he be busting a gut to get back?
— Campbell♦️ (@CampbellMUFC) November 5, 2020
Others noted, however, that Messi is notoriously conservative with his energy when his team does not have the ball, preferring instead to save himself for explosive bursts of pace when his team are in possession – an approach which has inarguably served the six-time Ballon d’Or winner well down the years.
This is pretty much every clip of Messi without the ball. What r we looking at?
— Carlos E. (@Stridersend) November 5, 2020
Messi was reportedly told by new Barca boss Koeman that any “special privileges are over” during the pair’s first meeting during the summer, and after struggling past Dynamo on Wednesday the Dutchman signaled he wants his team to exert more pressure when they don’t have the ball.
“We have to play well, and we have to improve the play without the ball,” Koeman said in post-match comments.
“The problem exists, sometimes you can’t push it. And if you do, you leave spaces. They have played well and created danger. Overall, defensively, we have been good.
“In no other match have we suffered as much danger from the opponent as we have today. We must improve the play without the ball.”
Barcelona sit top of Group G with nine points, while elsewhere nearest rivals Juventus – whom Barca turned over 2-0 in Turin last week – beat Hungarian champions Ferencvaros 4-1 in Budapest to move on to six points.