Barcelona coach Luis Enrique says there no problems in his relationship with either star player Lionel Messi or club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, despite strong claims to the contrary in the Catalan and Spanish press.
Reports have suggested that Messi and Enrique clashed both before and after he was benched for Sunday's 1-0 La Liga defeat at Real Sociedad. The Argentine then missed training on Monday morning with what was claimed to be a "tummy bug," and speculation followed that the four-time Ballon d'Or winner had told Bartomeu that if there is not a change of coach he will request a transfer.
Other local media reckoned that Bartomeu had told Enrique that he could lose his job should Barca slip up against Elche in the Copa del Rey on Thursday night, or next Sunday at home to Atletico Madrid in La Liga.
The former Roma and Celta Vigo boss told a news conference that results always determine a coach's future, and that he felt supported by both the boardroom and his squad at the Camp Nou.
"I maintain communication with the president, but I have not received any ultimatum," Enrique said. "I never have during my career as coach. A coach's future always depends on results, that is normal. But I feel backed, by both the club and players. I will do my work with same intensity and professionalism as the first day."
He also stuck to the line that Messi really had been ill on Monday and, when asked whether the pair had argued last week, said he never either confirmed or denied such supposed leaks.
"On Monday Leo Messi had gastroenteritis," he said. "That was communicated, and that is the reality. We would like to work in a more positive atmosphere outside, but inside it is [positive].
"The things which happen inside the dressing room, the team, always stay inside. I will not confirm or deny stories [about any row]. The majority of the stories which come out are bad-intentioned."
Messi came in to train alone on Tuesday, despite the team having the day off, and took a normal part in Wednesday morning's preparatory session for the Elche game. Enrique would not say if he had spoken individually with his No. 10 about the week's events, and chose his words carefully when asked if sensitive superstars required careful handling by coaches.
"I do not speak every day with each player," he said. "When there is something to talk about there is individual contact all the time. With Messi, [Luis] Suarez, with everyone. Messi is the best player in the world, I have said that many times, there is no point in constantly repeating it.
"I do not treat my kids the same, so do not treat all players the same either. That would be a mistake. Although the group is most important, above any individual. But there are some rules of behaviour that everyone should follow."
The news conference also featured a number of questions on Monday's decision by Bartomeu to fire sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta, with assistants Narcis Julia and Albert Valentin also set to depart.
"It is sad news for me personally as Andoni, Albert and Narcis are three very good professionals, who have done excellent work over their four years," Enrique commented. "They are loyal and honest people.
"I worked with them at 100 percent and value their professional worth. I can only praise the work of these individuals. I do not want to go too deeply into the subject. The president can explain his motives."
More generally speaking, the Asturian said he understood that losing at Real Sociedad, and thereby missing a chance to overtake Real Madrid atop La Liga, had led to much disappointment around the Camp Nou. However he maintained the overall situation with the team was actually positive.
"I see the situation as positive," Enrique insisted. "The team has played some very good games. I feel confident, motivated, thinking about things we can improve. I concentrate on the things I can control, what most of those you are asking about I cannot, so it would not be intelligent to get into it.
"The last day's result annoyed everyone a bit, as we missed chance to catch up with Real Madrid. That is a blow that affects us players, fans, everyone, that is logical. But over the season we'll have more chances, and must be ready to take advantage of them."
There was just time for one question about Thursday's opponents Elche, who are currently bottom of the La Liga table, and beset by financial difficulties.
"Many thanks for asking this," he added. "Although they are not going well in La Liga, they are a dangerous team. I get concerned about these games, especially with everything that is going on around us."