If there’s one glaring weakness in Lionel Messi’s near-perfect game, it is his penalty taking. Lately the Barcelona record-breaker has made headlines because of his awry penalties rather than the bucketload of goals he grabs every week.
His miss against Manchester City last night was the fifth penalty Messi has missed in the last 12 months for club and country, proving that he is in fact human after all.
It is a weakness slowly growing into Messi’s game after he had almost perfected the art of penalty taking, rarely missing from the spot. However, it appears as if an element of pressure has seeped into Messi’s mind, and has looked far from convincing with several of his recent spot-kicks.
Of his 59 Barcelona penalties, Messi has scored 46 and missed 13, with over a third of those misses coming in the past 10 months.
From the above graphic, you can see where Messi has not taken his opportunities in the past 12 months. He has missed the target on one occasion (v Levante), hit the upright on another (v Atletico) and seen his attempts saved on the other three, with the goalkeeper diving to his left twice.
These failures have occurred in varying competitions, suggesting it is a mental problem with Messi, and that the pressure remains irrespective of the game situations. Missing in the Champions League, SuperCopa and a friendly with arch-rivals Brazil proves Messi does struggle with the pressure, backed up by his high-profile chance against Chelsea in 2012. Messi’s pen hit the bar and Chelsea progressed to the Champions League Final at Barca’s expense.
Speculation will continue to surround Messi and his penalty-taking ability in the near future, unless someone else takes over that duty. Neymar has an equally dismal record from his time at Santos, though would feature as a prime contender to take over from Messi. Andres Iniesta could step up and offer his services, as could Ivan Rakitic – Sevilla’s previous penalty taker.
*Messi scored the follow-up against Betis