Mauricio Pochettino is the latest coach to feel Lionel Messi's wrath

Lionel Messi once refused to train after being subbed, sent Pep furious texts about Zlatan and snubbed a hospital visit in anger… Pochettino is just the latest coach to feel his wrath after taking him off

  • Mauricio Pochettino angered Lionel Messi by substituting him against Lyon 
  • The image of Messi staring at the coach dominated post-match discussions
  • The Argentine has a long history of making his feelings very clear to coaches
  • He had a furious spat with Luis Enrique following a defeat away to Real Sociedad
  • Messi missed training afterwards and was absent from the team’s hospital visit
  • The Argentine also refused to train after being substituted by Guardiola in 2008 

Lionel Messi waited over a month to make his home debut for Paris Saint-Germain and certainly didn’t expect it to end with him being substituted as his team desperately chased a winner against Lyon.

Messi looked utterly bewildered when he was taken off for Achraf Hakimi in the 76th minute and didn’t try to hide his anger, staring at the floor as he trod off, giving Mauricio Pochettino a deathly stare as he made for the bench and then snubbing the coach’s offer of a handshake.

Pochettino’s decision was vindicated as Mauro Icardi’s injury-time winner clinched a 2-1 victory but Messi’s dismayed reaction to the substitution was the main takeaway from the game and the overriding talking point. 

Lionel Messi looked bewildered after being taken off by Mauricio Pochettino against Lyon

Messi could not hide his disappointment after he was substituted in the 76th minute

Messi is not used to being substituted but he has now been taken off by Pochettino as many times as in each of his final three seasons at Barcelona, while he was not taken off in any league games in the 2017/18 campaign.

Pochettino justified the decision after the game by saying he did not want to risk Messi getting injured but he made a bold move in taking off the six-time Ballon d’Or winner in a clear indication that the team’s needs must come ahead of the needs of star players. 

Messi has a long history of defying coaches, even ones as imposing as Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, and Pochettino will need a firm backbone to dare take the player off again without consulting him.

Sportsmail takes a look at the other times coaches have made decisions Messi did not agree with. Each time, the Argentine ended up winning the battle with his manager. 


Messi’s most famous rift with a coach was with Luis Enrique after he was benched for a LaLiga game at Real Sociedad in January 2015. 

What seemed at first like a logical coaching decision led to a near mutiny from Messi which threatened Luis Enrique’s job, caused the president to call elections and saw sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta sacked.

Messi had only recently returned from a Christmas break in Argentina and Enrique decided to start without him or Neymar in the first game back away to a Sociedad side coached by David Moyes.

Messi caused a huge storm at Barcelona after not starting against Real Sociedad in 2015

Messi reportedly called for coach Luis Enrique to be sacked for leaving him out of the team

Sociedad took an early lead through a Jordi Alba own goal and Luis Enrique hauled on Messi and Neymar after the break but Moyes’ side clung on for a famous win which dented Bara’s title chances but most of all caused an earthquake back in Catalonia.

Messi was absent from a rare open training session the next day and even missed the team’s annual visit to children’s hospitals.

Barca tried to blame his absence on a stomach bug but their excuse fooled no-one, particularly due to an ill-timed interview Xavi Hernandez had given days before in which he revealed ‘gastroenteritis in the world of football sounds like an excuse, when something else is going on’.

Messi shook hands with David Moyes after losing to Sociedad but was furious with his coach

Barca won the treble but Luis Enrique admitted there was ‘tension’ between him and Messi

Enrique, a club legend, was booed by fans in the next game against Elche and reports appeared in the Spanish media that Messi had urged president Josep Maria Bartomeu to sack the coach and threatened to leave if he did not.

It took an intervention from Xavi to heal the rift between Messi and Luis Enrique and things began to look up when Barca beat champions Atletico Madrid 3-1 the following week, then going on to win a stunning treble in which the Argentine played a starring role along with Neymar and Luis Suarez.

Enrique later admitted there was ‘a period of tension’ with Messi but said nowadays he can  ‘only say good things’ about the Argentine. 

But the usually headstrong coach had learned the hard way that not even he could look to impose his authority on the little genius.


Luis Enrique is not the only authority figure Messi has rebelled against.

Pep Guardiola substituted the Argentine for Pedro in a 4-0 win over Valencia in his first season in charge of the club, a seemingly harmless decision given his side had already scored four goals and there were nine minutes to go.

But Messi did not see it this way and declared his intention to miss training the next day, according to Catalan radio station RAC1.

Barca’s players convinced him to finally leave his house after a series of phone calls but once at the training facility he refused to get changed into his kit.

Messi was so angry after being subbed by Pep Guardiola that he refused to train the next day

Guardiola and Messi had a strong relationship but the player wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind

Barca said publicly that Messi had not trained as he was receiving injury treatment although privately they fined the player.

Messi had made his point though and was only substituted once more that season in the league. 


Beyond being subbed at the end of a game, Messi sensed a far bigger problem the following season: the form of new signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Barca had broken the bank to sign Ibrahimovic from Inter Milan, spending €46million (£39m) on him and sending Samuel Eto’o the other way.

Although he later complained about Barca being too much like a school with rigid rules, Ibrahimovic made a flying start to life at the Nou Camp, scoring 11 LaLiga goals in his first four months, including the winning goal in El Clasico against Real Madrid.

But Messi saw the Swede as a threat and let Guardiola know – by text message.

Then only 22, Messi was remarkably shy and was unable to express his thoughts to his coach so he sent him a text while sitting only a few rows behind him on the team’s bus.

‘I can see that I am no longer important to the team, so …’ Messi wrote, according to a 2012 book titled ‘The Messi Mystery’.  

Messi did not react well to Zlatan Ibrahimovic usurping him as Barca’s central striker

Messi texted Guardiola to complain about the fact Ibrahimovic was playing in his favoured role

Messi was mostly upset with Ibrahimovic’s central role in the team and being forced to playing on the right wing after playing so well as a ‘false nine’ in the latter stages of the previous season.

The Argentine was quickly restored to a central role and Ibrahimovic shunted to the right, where he was less effective and less mobile.

The Swede featured little in the latter stage of the season and soon left the club for AC Milan while Messi remained and went on to be Barca’s all-time top scorer and best player.

Not even a proven star and volcanic personality like Ibrahimovic could get in his way and the Swede has never forgiven Guardiola. 

‘Pep preferred to make Messi happy – he didn’t value me,’ he wrote in his autobiography.


Messi had enjoyed a good relationship with Ernesto Valverde and did not take long to show his displeasure at the coach being sacked, penning a furious message on Instagram attacking sporting director Eric Abidal over the decision.

So it was little surprise that he did not get off to the best start with Valverde’s successor Quique Setien and was questioning the new coach’s decisions less than a month into his tenure.

Simon Kuper, author of the book ‘Barça: The Inside Story of the World’s Greatest Football Club’, has revealed that Messi was furious over Setien picking Junior Firpo at left-back in a match at Real Betis rather than his longtime teammate and close personal friend Jordi Alba.

Quique Setien (left) rarely saw eye-to-eye with Messi and said he was ‘difficult to manage’

Setien said of Messi: ‘He is very reserved, but he makes you see the things he wants’

According to Kuper, Setien asked Messi at half-time what he thought of the team’s performance as they had to twice come from behind to make it 2-2 at the break.

‘What do you think I think?’ snapped Messi

‘This isn’t a youth team!’ Messi shouted. ‘Play your best players.’ 

Setien soon did as he was told and brought Alba on for Firpo, Barca going on to win the game 3-2.

Setien later told former Spain coach Vicente del Bosque in newspaper El Pais how tough it was to be in charge of Messi.

‘He is very reserved, but he makes you see the things he wants. He doesn’t speak much. But he watches,’ he said.

‘Who am I to change him if they have accepted him for years here and have never asked him to adapt?’

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