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20-Sep-2020, 08:37 pm

Do Barcelona have a 'Lionel Messi rule'?

Lionel Messi Barcelona training 2020

Lionel Messi is Barcelona's most prized asset and those associated with the Catalan institution let out a collective sigh of relief when the Argentine agreed to stay after a protracted dispute.

Keeping Messi happy is a crucial part of ensuring the talisman remains at the club and that reality has not been lost on the presidential hopefuls who seek to replace Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The 33-year-oldhas expressed his annoyance about the sense that "there has been no project" at Barcelona for too long and it's little surprise to seecandidatesbuilding campaigns around resolving that very issue.

Others have even resorted to massaging the star's ego by making the pointthat Messi is deserving ofa statue next to thatwhich already stands of Johan Cruyff.

It's abundantly clear that placatingMessi,to some extent at least,is a key consideration for those who run Barca, but does a 'Lionel Messi rule'extend to his team-mates and the training pitch?

The perceived idea that Barcelona have some sort of 'Lionel Messi rule' emerged after an interview given by Jean-Clair Todibo to German outlet Bild in January 2020.

Essentially, the French defender hinted at an unwritten rulewhich dictates that the Barca players do their best not to injure Messi during training sessions.

"We all knew that he couldn't get injured," Todibo said in the interview with Bild.

"I learned a lot from Messi, and also stole a few balls from him in training. But you go easy on Messi, nobody wants to hurt him."

Little was made of Todibo's comments until a number of months later in the summer, when speculation regarding the Argentine's future at the club began to intensify and his influence came under scrutiny. Atthatpointsome headlines appeared referring to the 'Lionel Messi rule'.

So is there a such thing as the 'Lionel Messi rule'? The short answer is no - there is no evidence to suggest that Barcelona have adopted a policy which prohibits players from tackling Messi too aggressively in training.

However, there is certainly a degree of logic to the idea of ensuring that your best playeris fit and healthy to play in as many games as possible.

In that respect, Todibo's comment that they "go easy" on him, makes sense and it is entirely possible that many of the players train with that thoughtin the back of their minds.

That said, it does not necessarily tally with other testimonies regarding Messi in Barcelona training and the intensity of the sessions - in which players don't really seem to "go easy"-can easily be seen on the club's official YouTube channel.

Former team-mates have spoken of Messi's own ferocity in training, for example, relayinghow the Argentine never shiedaway from physicality, particularly in the early days.

Speaking toBleacher Reportin early 2020, ex Barca youth player Ramon Maso said thatMessi "always shows up. He never shirks." Another product of La Masia,Jordi Gomez, who was at the academy at the same time, stressed that the Argentine trained exactly as he played.

Things may have changed somewhat in recent years, with Messi's body - like everyone else's - subject to the ravages of time and perhaps there is a little more care taken among the seasoned professionals at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper.

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