Lionel Messi: 7 times Barcelona and Argentina star proved he's a great leader

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Barcelona were no doubt left stunned when Lionel Messi called out sporting director Eric Abidal on Instagram on Tuesday.

Messi was responding to Abidal’s criticism of Barcelona’s players in the wake of Ernesto Valverde’s sacking, in which the retired defender accused certain stars of not working hard under their previous coach.

“Honestly, I don’t like doing these things but I think that everyone has to be responsible for his acts and take responsibility for their own decisions,” Messi wrote.

“The players [are responsible for] what happens on the pitch, and we have been the first to recognise when we were not good.

“The people in the sporting directorate should also assume their responsibility and above all take ownership of the decisions they make.

“Finally, I think that when players are talked about, names should be given because, if not, we are all being dirtied and it feeds comments that are made and are not true.”

Messi’s teammates will admire his defence of them.

The Argentinian has often been criticised for apparently lacking leadership skills but that’s simply not true.

He may not be the most vocal of captains but on numerous occasions throughout his career he’s displayed great leadership traits, the latest coming with his refusal to accept Abidal’s comments without responding.

We’ve picked out six more examples when Messi has proved he’s a leader.

Sticking up for Paulo Dybala

Argentina’s Dybala was left in floods of tears after being shown a red card on his first start for his country in 2016.

The Juventus player was shown two yellow cards on the stroke of half-time in a World Cup qualifier against Uruguay.

But Messi made a beeline for the referee when the half-time whistle went to protest Dybala’s dismissal.

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Dybala later revealed that Messi had offered his support following his sending off.

“Leo Messi told me to be calm, that these things happen, that it was not my fault but the referee’s,” he told Ole, per Sport.

“I felt good, comfortable playing with Messi.”

Encouraging Ousmane Dembele

French forward Ousmane Dembele has never really settled in at Barcelona since his arrival in 2017 and his development has been affected by several injuries.

But Messi has tried to ease his integration into life at the Camp Nou by giving him on-field instructions and support.

In a Champions League clash against Chelsea in March 2018, the Argentinian was seen helping Dembele get into the right positions, and was also the first man to celebrate with the former Dortmund star after he scored.

Half-time team talk vs Nigeria at 2018 World Cup

Argentina needed to beat Nigeria in their final group game to stand a chance of reaching the knockout stage of the 2018 World Cup finals.

They led 1-0 but the job wasn’t done and Messi delivered a speech in the tunnel at half-time to inspire his players on.

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“Messi came up to us and told us to calm down and not be stressed,” Argentina defender Marcos Rojo later revealed to TyC Sports, per the Daily Mail.

“We felt nervous and that message helped us a lot and gave me personally a huge confidence boost.”

“Messi is our captain and he’s the best captain in the world, it was amazing to score that goal.

Nigeria v Argentina: Group D - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

“Messi told everyone that it was either life or death. It could’ve gone badly. We could’ve conceded but Leo was stubborn.

“He told me to run forward. Even [Javier] Mascherano. He told everyone to attack no matter what. He truly read the game and risks.

He’s a leader. The best.

Rojo’s late goal sealed a 2-1 win and Argentina went through to the last 16.

Instructing teammates vs Lyon

Barcelona’s 5-1 win over Lyon in March 2019 will mostly be remembered for a Messi masterclass in which he scored twice and set up two goals.

But we shouldn’t forget about his reaction to Lyon’s away goal in the second half, which caused a brief period of uncertainty at the Camp Nou.

Lucas Tousart scored in the 58th minute to make it 2-1 and suddenly, things got a bit nervy.

Messi reacted by instructing his teammates in a calming manner that would have eased the nerves.

He wasn’t shouting his head off, instead going around and advising his teammates.

Barcelona scored three more goals to complete a rout.

Giving Philippe Coutinho a penalty vs Sevilla

Messi could be forgiven for trying to score as many goals as possible to add to his incredible tally before he retires but that’s simply not how he plays the game.

Against Sevilla in January 2019, he won a penalty in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey quarter-final second leg against Sevilla and handed the ball to Coutinho.

The Brazilian was suffering from a poor run of form and in need of a goal to boost his confidence.

Messi gave Coutinho the ball and the former Liverpool man dispatched the penalty to put Barcelona 1-0 up.

It was a class gesture.

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Hat-trick to lead Argentina to the World Cup

Messi has led by example on numerous occasions throughout his career and this was no more evident when Argentina played Ecuador in their final qualifying game for the 2018 World Cup.

La Albiceleste entered the game in sixth place and needed a top four finish to make it to Russia.

Their task became even more difficult when they went 1-0 down inside 38 seconds.

But Messi put the team on his back with a stunning hat-trick to seal a 3-1 win and a place at the World Cup.

Messi isn’t a leader?

That’s a load of nonsense.

He will never be seen blasting his teammates on the pitch but there are different ways to lead and Messi has exhibited many of them throughout the years.

Even if he didn’t encourage his teammates or give penalties to struggling players, how can any of them not be inspired simply by watching him play?

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