Sporting director Eric Abidal staying at Barcelona

Eric Abidal will continue in his role as Barcelona sporting director despite a high-profile fallout with Lionel Messi this week.

A report in Marca claims the former defender will remain in his position and will travel to Bilbao with the team on Thursday night, while El Mundo Deportivo led their Thursday coverage with news that he would stay.

Marca cited Catalan radio station RAC1 as saying on Wednesday that Abidal was ‘on the verge of the abyss’ amid meeting the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Abidal has been at the club in a technical role since 2018 and assumed his position last summer with Ramon Planes as his deputy, after the departure of Pep Segura and the resignation of vice-president Jordi Mestre.

Former France international defender Abidal hit out at the work ethic of the club’s players in interviews with Diario Sport and El Mundo Deportivo on Tuesday, saying that was a major reason he decided to dismiss Ernesto Valverde last month.

“Many players weren't satisfied or working hard and there was also an internal communication problem,” Abidal told Diario Sport.

“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 sacking Valverde).”

Club captain Lionel Messi then responded on Instagram, writing: “When you talk about players, you have to give names because if not, it gives air to things which are not true.

“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.

“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.”

Abidal’s sacking of Valverde is his major decision at the club – the signings of Antoine Griezmann and Frenkie de Jong were said to be concluded before his arrival, with only the arrivals of goalkeeper Neto and Real Betis wing-back Junior Firpo last season overseen by him.

He is now blamed for the failed pursuit of Neymar and also the squad planning this month which saw Abel Ruiz and Carles Perez both leave the club, with no replacements.

That decision has been exacerbated by long-term injuries to Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele.

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