On the morning that the news broke that Chelsea had spoken to Messi’s father (and agent) about a possible move this summer, former Barcelona assistant Henk ten Cate has claimed that the only reason that Messi still remains at the Nou Camp is a vow he made to the late Tito Vilanova on his deathbed.
The Dutch coach, who worked under Frank Rijkaard when Messi made his debut at the club in 2004, said Messi promised close confidant Vilanova that he would stay at the Catalan giants.
Ten Cate spoke to Holland’s De Telegraaf amid speculation Messi is unhappy and looking to move elsewhere due to a rift with current boss Luis Enrique.
Messi is only still at Barcelona because he promised it to Tito Vilanova at his deathbed,’ Ten Cate told De Telegraaf, adding there were signs of problems two years ago.
Messi shared a close relationship with Vilanova, who stepped up to the main job at Barcelona in 2012 and together they won the La Liga on their first try. Vilanova stepped down due to ill health and died from cancer in April last year. Despite Messi apparently giving Vilanova his word, Ten Cate believes a move would be the best thing for both parties.
“I think a transfer would be in everybody’s best interest,’ Ten Cate says. ‘Lionel has been at Barcelona for quite a while and he needs a new challenge. He’s still worth a lot of money now but his value will only go down from here on.’
Messi didn’t train on Monday, citing gastroenteritis, but returned on Wednesday. At a press conference Enrique refused to ‘confirm or deny those reports’ in relation to a clash with Messi and other senior players.
‘Messi is the best player in the world and I have said this many times,’ he said. ‘I have the same relationship with all my players that I had at the start of the season.’