Synonymous with the beloved name of Barcelona around the world, Lionel Messi has set the benchmark over the years for what has been the most successful period in the Catalonia club’s history. Yet, the most obvious question is still queried daily among the followers of Europe’s most prestigious of clubs, how would Barca fare without their superstar ‘false 9’?
The re-occurrence of another hamstring injury has resulted in Messi not being available for Barcelona for up to 2 months. Not only is the hamstring injury becoming associated with Messi more frequently, the fact that it ceases to let up could result in the inevitable fate that Messi has entered his much-predicted period of decline. Although this notion will come as a premature thought to some, there was an accepted theory throughout Barcelona’s ranks that the growth enhancing hormones Messi was given as a child could end up cutting his career shorter than many would have expected.
If we leave the theory to one side and focus on the present, we see Messi’s effect on the current Barca team as a mammoth-like one. Looking back to both last year’s Champions League Quarter and Semi-Finals we saw how influential Messi had become to Barca’s hopes of progressing further into the competition. During the eagerly awaited first leg against PSG, it had become apparent at half time that Messi had picked up a re occurrence of a hamstring injury he had sustained beforehand.
As Barca looked to progress into the semi’s, in the second leg we saw a team who literally melted in front of their own fans. No longer was the Camp Nou a place to fear, instead it had resulted in PSG playing a mundane atmosphere you could only find in your local park.
The answer to the problem was simply the x-factor that is Lionel Messi, ceased to exist in an all-conquering Barca team. His no-show in the first half had signaled a call to arms from the away team; Barca were no longer the hunters, they became the hunted.
However, Messi had to return. He had to bring-forth the legend he was to save his beloved team in desperate need of savour. Without trying to sound to make this sound like another episode of the Game of Thrones, to put it simply, Messi is vital to the continual progression of Barcelona who, for all their attacking talent, relies on Messi to deliver when they need him most.
Yet this constant, almost unhealthy obsession, has led to what Messi has become now. This season has seen him look a shadow of his former self. Jaded, fatigued he almost looked disillusioned with football as a whole. Could this be due to the overuse of Messi? Probably yes. For all his influence, Barca has so far been able to stand on their own when their star talisman is not available for selection. For the majority this has been down to the resurgence of Alexis Sanchez and an in-form Cesc Fabregas.
Given the calibre of opposition Barca have had to face without Messi it should of little surprise to hear that his non-involvement has so far yielded no losses in la Liga. As we saw last season, injuries came at critical times of Barcelona’s season where they eventually ran out of answers as Lionel Messi played the role of passenger during Bayern’s onslaught of Barca along two eye-opening legs in the semi-final.
Therefore, taking into account both his obvious jadedness and importance to a fully-functioning Barca team, maybe this injury can be counted as a blessing for both Messi and Barca, in which the latter can find alternatives in the ‘false 9’ position. Hopefully, for football lovers as a whole, we see a rejuvenated Messi return after his break ready to wrestle back his crown from Ronaldo (maybe!?) whilst giving Barca the much needed impetus, should he return in time, into what is shaping up to be a critical part of the campaign.