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Messi's purple patch of confusion

13 January 2015, 18:54

Madrid - Lionel Messi confused everyone at the Ballon d'Or awards with his purple tuxedo and his comments about his future at Barcelona.

The Argentine superstar's spangly suit was the latest of a long line of fashion statements at the annual football gala -- where he was beaten to the top award by Cristiano Ronaldo. He made notable headlines two years ago with a striking polka dot outfit.

"Ronaldo deserved to beat Messi in the Ballon d'Or on choice of suit for the event alone," commented former English Football Association communications chief Adrian Bevington.

But there is as much speculation about whether Messi will stay at Barcelona -- his club of the past decade -- as there is on his fashion sense.

Messi's reportedly rocky relationship with Barcelona coach Luis Enrique already has major European clubs on alert, according to media reports.

The alarm bells rang louder after Messi said on Monday "I've always said I want to end my career at Barcelona". He added: "But you never know what will happen in the world of football. I do not know where I'll be next year."

Messi refered reporters to comments by his big rival Ronaldo that "lots of things change in football and anything can happen."

The statement by the four-time Ballon d'Or winner further clouded his intentions after a reported showdown with Enrique last week and his statement on Sunday describing reports linking him to Chelsea and Manchester City as "all lies".

"I have never demanded anything to ensure that I stay because I never had any intention of leaving," he told Barca TV after a brilliant performance in his side's 3-1 win over Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona's tumultuous week also included the sacking of sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta.

Messi, still a giant on the football pitch, appears uncertain in public.

After the Zurich press conference, Messi spoke to some reporters who quoted him as saying that his comments are always "twisted" and "I'm in no way thinking about leaving".

If Messi is uncertain, it could be the result of a year without club titles as well as losing the World Cup final to Germany and the world player of the year title to Ronaldo for the second year.

The speculation could also be the result of the intense scrutiny given to every word and gesture he makes.

His move to follow Chelsea's Instagram social media account and to put Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho in third place in his votes for coach of the year all added to the turmoil at Barcelona.

The Messi storm is a worry for Barcelona leaders, including Enrique and club president Josep Bartomeu as they confront other major problems.

The club is banned from signing new players until January 2016. They could also face criminal proceedings over hidden fees in the 2013 transfer of Brazilian star Neymar.

Messi's future could take centre stage when Bartomeu seeks reelection as Barcelona president when the season ends, having brought forward the vote because of the multiple storms surrounding the club.

Former president Joan Laporta, who oversaw two Champions League triumphs when in charge between 2003 and 2010, has been strongly linked with a return to the top job at the Camp Nou. But he has not yet declared himself a candidate.

A Messi departure or even a public battle between Messi and Enrique would make a change at the top more likely. Barcelona need a purple patch from their star player.

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