Embattled Barcelona captain Lionel Messi feels ‘traumatised’ from the alleged social media scandal emanating from the Nou Camp outfit, reports say.
The 33-year-old is growing increasingly likely to leave the Nou Camp this summer.
While Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain have interest in the Argentina international, it’s Manchester City who appear to be frontrunners in the race to secure his signature.
The La Liga giants have been a club in crisis for some time and, earlier in the year, became embroiled in a social media scandal.
Barca were alleged to have hired social media company I3 Ventures on a million-euro contract to create fake social media accounts to discredit people and players critical of Josep Maria Bartomeu and the rest of the Barcelona board.
The Argentina international was a victim of this, as well as Gerard Pique.
Posts went up criticising Messi for his delay in re-signing with the Catalan giants, while Pique was slammed for involving himself in Spain’s Davis Cup competition.
And Marca say the 33-year-old has been left ‘traumatised’ by the whole thing.
Barcelona have denied the accusations, releasing an official statement in February saying: “With regards to information published today about the contracting of a company dedicated to creating opinion on social media with a view to damaging the image of third parties related directly or indirectly with the club, FC Barcelona roundly deny any relationship, and furthermore, the contracting of services linked to social media accounts that have broadcast negative or disparaging messages related to any person, entity or organisation that may be, or have been, related to the club.
“I3 Ventures, a service provider to the club, has no relationship with the accounts mentioned and, if any relationship was to come to light, the club would immediately end their contractual agreement and bring about any necessary legal action to defend their interests.
“As such, FC Barcelona confirm that it has services contracted relating to the monitoring of social media with the aim of analysing both positive and negative messages about the organisation itself.
“With the contracting of these services, the club is attempting to look after and preserve its reputation as well those of people related to the club (sponsors, players, board members, members, supporters' club members), as far as the protection of this reputation is a fundamental element and responsibility for those who work for the organisation.
“The club demands an immediate rectification of the information published and reserves the right to exercise legal action against those who continue to implicate the club in such practices.”
But it appears Messi is determined to quit the club regardless.
This article was most recently revised and updated 3 weeks ago