Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo believes Lionel Messi’s lacklustre form may be due to a “mental problem” after the summer’s dramatic fallout, during which Barcelona’s greatest-ever player handed in a transfer request.

Messi, who had grown increasingly frustrated with the club’s direction under former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, was dismayed by the treatment of his teammate and close friend Luis Suarez and the Argentine eventually attempted to invoke an exit clause in his contract. However, with a legal dispute looming, the 33-year-old was left with little option but to see out the final year of his deal.

Meanwhile, Barca’s disastrous form – suffering a stunning 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League – has carried over into this season under new manager Ronald Koeman. Defeat by Cadiz last Saturday left Barcelona languishing in ninth in La Liga – already 12 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid after just 10 games – while Messi has been short of his usual brilliance.

Asked about Messi’s recent drop-off, Pirlo said: “He’s in a special moment in his life, not his career. He had some problems in the summer, if he would stay at Barca or not, but during the game he’s shown his value. Continue reading

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