BEVERLY HILLS, May 04, (THEWILL) – Barcelona’s Lionel Messi reportedly hosted a meal for his team-mates at his home that may have broken COVID-19 protocols as they prepare for a crucial clash with La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid.
In one of Europe’s tightest league races to the title this season, Barcelona face the prospect of dictating their La Liga fortunes when they square off against Atletico on Saturday, May 8, at the Camp Nou, for a Round 35 match that can decide where the trophy ends in the 2020/2021 campaign especially with only two points separating both sides.
They have experienced nothing short of a tough season and a bumpy path so far with mixed fortunes along the way characterised by the overt attempt by their mercurial forward Lionel Messi to leave in he summer, a new manager in Ronald Koeman, the resignation of the former president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board, the return of Juan Laporta as President and the improvement in their on-field performances.
Victory in the Copa del Rey final over Athletic Club Bilbao on Saturday, April 17 helped them to their first title since the 2018/2019 season in all competitions and eased some of the weighty pressures on the side especially in terms of results but also on the aspect of finances.
To let off some steam ahead of the crucial end of season League matches, Messi invited the entire Barcelona squad and their partners round to his house for a barbecue. However, there are indications that their party could have flouted COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
Reports have it that the barbecue celebration had a lot more than the legally allowed number of people in attendance, which is something the government has frowned upon during the pandemic.
In their defense, the breach of the guidelines was not intended and efforts were made to stay within the guidelines. The barbecue was done outside and Messi provided each player and their partner with their own table to encourage social distancing.
However, the Spanish government has been clear about the issue of gatherings and La Liga has followed suit. No gatherings over six people are permitted, which the barbecue very clearly exceeded.
The defense that the club has put forward is weak. They claim that no COVID guidelines were breached as the squad are all part of one big bubble. They also hold that players’ partners, who were also in attendance, were all kept in their own individual bubbles. It is uncertain if this line of argument will hold but league officials looking into the party will open an investigation to get to the facts.
THEWILL recalls that the Atletico Madrid team recently has a similar event that involved their whole squad. They did not invite this level of scrutiny because they did the right thing of alerting both La Liga and the local authorities, who confirmed that all health guidelines were followed.
In Messi’s case, everyone was kept in the dark. And that is what may be bringing the attention of the authorities to their barbecue at a time when they should be all clearly focused on scaling the hurdle that Saturday will bring against Atletico.