Former Barcelona superstar Rivaldo has come out in support of Lionel Messi over his dispute with the club's director of football Eric Abidal.
The ex French international hinted in an explosive interview earlier this week that the lack of effort and performance level from the squad so far contributed to the sacking of former manager Ernesto Valverde in January.
However, Messi reacted angrily to this suggestion, via Instagram, indicating that the decision to remove Valverde made by the club, and within the responsibility of Abidal and the rest of the board.
The row has intensified speculation that Messi could now look to leave the club in the summer, due to an exit clause in his current contract, with Manchester City linked with a summer bid.
The club are now working to resolve the situation, but former Brazilian midfielder Rivaldo believes Messi within his rights to speak out against Abidal's comments.
"Messi has every right to be angry with Abidal's comments," he told an interview with Marca.
"He (Abidal) cast doubt of the professionalism of the squad, without naming any one player, and that effects the whole squad."
"Messi has only looked to defend the group, as a captain, as well as his own reputation."
"I don not believe Abidal has done this on purpose, but he has been naive, and that has hurt the club."
Former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola has moved to reject any claims that Messi could be moving to the Etihad Stadium ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, stating that he wanted the Argentina international to end his career at the Camp Nou.