Lionel Messi’s former Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, now the boss of Spain, suggested on Saturday the club should have allowed the Argentina forward to leave.

“It’s a sensitive issue,” said Luis Enrique, ahead of Spain’s game against Ukraine on Sunday.

From wanting to quit Barcelona to being forced to stay: Timeline of the Lionel Messi (non-)transfer saga

“I think clubs are above every player. Barcelona was founded in 1899 and is one of the best in the world, it has won titles forever.

“Clearly there has been a wonderful relationship. Leo has made Barca grow exponentially but I would have liked it a lot more if an agreement had been reached.”

Enrique managed Messi at Barca from 2014 to 2017 and they won the treble together in 2015.

He added: “Sooner or later Messi will stop playing at Barca. The club will continue to win titles without Messi just as Messi will continue to be wonderful for many years if he leaves.”

Watch: The Lionel Messi interview where he announced decision to stay – and slammed Barcelona’s management

Messi’s grudging acceptance that he will have to stay put after losing his stand-off with club president Josep Maria Bartomeu means his long-term future is still in doubt.

The 33-year-old was absent from training on Saturday. He needs to pass the coronavirus test he skipped last weekend and could then join Ronald Koeman’s squad for their next session on Monday.

The team’s first friendly will be against third division Nastic on September 12.

Messi announced on Friday he would be reluctantly staying and launched a stinging attack on Bartomeu, claiming he had broken his word to let him leave.

The absence of any new contract means that even if he is not allowed to leave this summer, Messi could negotiate with other teams from January 1 and go for free when his current deal expires in July.

The feeling that Messi’s decision was by no means the end of the affair was clear in Spanish daily Marca’s headline: “Messi stays, the crisis too”.

Bartomeu could yet respond with his resignation, having previously indicated he would step down if Messi publicly said he was the problem and agreed to stay.