MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and coach Luis Enrique appear to have agreed an uneasy truce but hostilities could break out again if the Argentina forward’s form dips and the club stumbles as the season reaches a crucial stage.
A series of inspirational Messi performances have helped Barca put together a streak of 11 wins in all competitions since a 1-0 La Liga defeat at Real Sociedad on Jan. 4, matching their best run under former coach Pep Guardiola in 2008-09.
They are on the verge of a place in the King’s Cup final, through to the Champions League last 16 to face Manchester City and will climb above Real Madrid to the top of La Liga if they avoid defeat at home to Malaga on Saturday.
The surge in form means that rather than looking on helplessly as their club teetered on the edge of crisis, Barca fans are now starting to dream of a repeat of their historic 2009 treble.
The turmoil that followed the reverse at Sociedad, when reports of a rift between Messi and Luis Enrique surfaced in the Spanish media, is a distant memory, at least for the time being.
The forward quashed speculation he was considering leaving the club he joined as a 13-year-old but has pointedly declined to comment on his relationship with Luis Enrique, who took over from Messi’s compatriot Gerardo Martino at the end of last term.
A former Barca and Spain midfielder, Luis Enrique knows that if Messi is not content, the team’s chances of getting back to winning ways after failing to win major silverware in 2013-14 will be seriously diminished.
For the moment, the smile is back on Messi’s face and the fans are happy but that could all change very quickly if the team loses its way again.
Messi sounded a note of caution in a Argentine television interview broadcast on Wednesday.
“We still haven’t won anything,” he told Mundo Leo, a TV channel dedicated to the four-times World Player of the Year.
“There are many months of competition left both in La Liga and in the Champions League,” added the 27-year-old.
“The truth is that we are in very good shape. Luckily, after the Real Sociedad game, when we did not start the year well, everything changed.
“Now we are on a different path and everything is coming off for us.
“The team is confident and changed its attitude and desire and that is why we are like we are today. But there is a long way to go.”
Barca play their last 16, first leg at City on Tuesday, with the return at the Nou Camp on March 18, and take a 3-1 advantage to Villarreal for their King’s Cup semi-final, second leg on March 4.
Editing by John O'Brien