Johan Cruyff raised eyebrows on Tuesday by saying that Barcelona — for whom he was captain, then coach — should consider selling Lionel Messi, now that they have signed Brazilian star Neymar.

In an interview with Marca, Cruyff said: “Now that Barca has signed Neymar, they should really consider selling Messi,” in order to “avoid a conflict of egos” between the two South American forwards.

“I am all in favour of avoiding conflicts,” said Cruyff. “That’s why I wouldn’t have signed Neymar in the first place. But now that has been signed, the club should consider selling Messi.” The Dutchman justified his controversial point by adding: “Neymar and Messi are both free-kick specialists. Who is going to take them from now on?”

“I would not have taken the risk of bringing in Neymar.” When asked why Messi reportedly had problems playing alongside Samuel Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cruyff said: “It seems that Messi is a bit of a dictator. When you have the possibility of being the best player in every game, you have to be a bit of a dictator because your prestige is on the line.

“The pressure on Messi is enormous because the fans want to see him doing marvellous things, and in order for this to happen things have to function perfectly.” Regarding the charges of tax evasion brought against Messi by the public prosecutor’s office, Cruyff commented: “They have picked on Messi so that other people are afraid of them.”

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