Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo has suggested Barcelona forward Lionel Messi is suffering from a psychological problem that has nothing to do with on-field issues.
Pirlo is preparing his team for a clash with Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday – with both clubs already guaranteed to progress to the next stage of the competition.
Barcelona’s good form in Europe is in contrast to their struggles in the Spanish league, as they trail Liga leaders Atletico Madrid by a huge 12 points.
Barca’s struggles mirror those of Messi, who has been a long way short of his best so far this campaign – he has only seven goals to his name.
And Pirlo does not believe Messi’s talent is on the wane, rather he feels the player’s struggles date back to the off-season when he was linked with an exit away from the club.
“[Messi] is at a special moment in his life, not in his career, because he had a problem this summer,” Pirlo is quoted by Marca as saying in a press conference on Monday. “[It’s about] whether he would stay at Barcelona or not.
“But during games he has always shown his value. More than a football [issue], he probably has a psychological problem, but I don’t want to go into it, as it has nothing to do with us. “Messi is a phenomenon and he has shown it.”
Juventus trail Barcelona by three points, and the Catalans have a superior goal difference – meaning the Serie A club need a big victory to top the group.
“We have nothing to lose,” Pirlo said. “We can play an open game. We are aware of the mistakes we made in the first leg.
“It will be a very difficult game because we will have to suffer, but we will have our chances and we have to take advantage of them.”