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Messi and Atlético take centre stage


While the public is not allowed into Camp Nou because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it's difficult to know exactly how Barcelona fans feel about Messi's leaked contract. From a personal point of view, I would guess that most of them would be on the player's side. They have thoroughly enjoyed him over the years and besides, at the end of the day there’s not that much difference between what people had imagined he might be earning and what’s in the contract. The figures are bigger than what was previously believed and give an indication of how much respect there is for Messi but I don’t think any Barça fan would point the finger at him for the financial mess the club is in. There are other reasons – for instance, the money spent on signing Coutinho and Dembélé. Or the lost revenue from gate receipts because of the pandemic, which Javier Tebas alluded to in a tweet yesterday.

Barcelona back in the groove

In any case, Messi looked much more fired up than normal during Sunday’s meeting with Athletic. Everyone knows that he plays better when he’s got a bee in his bonnet and yesterday, he was clearly very rattled – probably about the person he suspects might have leaked the documents to El Mundo. With Messi sounding the battle cry, the team enjoyed a great start to the game, capped off by the Argentinean’s fabulous free-kick. Athletic weathered the onslaught and in the second half, with the wind in their sails, equalised and for a while the result was up in the air. It was resolved towards the end following a sumptuous passing move involving Dembélé, Mingueza and Griezmann - a winner that was celebrated with gusto by the whole team. Barça are now level on points with Madrid and give the impression that things are looking up.

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Atleti striding towards the title

Earlier, Atlético had sent the other teams in the chasing pack a memo to give up any hopes of snatching the title – as if, they needed reminding. Their win in Cádiz leaves them on 50 points from 19 games, which means at this rate, they are on course to finish the season somewhere around the 100-point mark. Luis Suárez, Messi’s big buddy, whose exit prompted a burofax to the Camp Nou offices, is in scintillating form. Atlético are now scoring the goals which once eluded them, and although they found themselves up against a majestic Negredo in Cádiz, they rose to the occasion, pushed hard and ended up winning 2-4. For El Cholo’s team, that’s now 16 victories, two draws and one defeat. It begs the question, can anyone seriously stop them?