Some fans and pundits, particularly in Argentina, have on several occasions claimed that Lionel Messi saves his best performances for Barcelona. The Argentine wizard has responded with a hat-trick against Switzerland to secure a 3-1 win for his country.
Then there are those who attribute Messi’s success with Barca to the presence of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. However, these same people fail to recognize that Messi raises the Catalan club into a another level with his performances, incisive runs and goals, and that there’s more to his presence at Barcelona than simply playing the best players from the best team (Spain have won the World Cup and the Euros, and are the favourites in the Euro 2012 betting odds as well).
The criticism leveled against Messi while playing for Argentina comes from the fact he seems unstoppable while representing his club yet he does not score as frequently when representing his country. This is down to the fact he is surrounded by better players at Barca not to mention the bad coaching and tactics when Maradona was in charge of Argentina. The absence of players who can complement Messi’s style of play and the limited time he spends with his compatriots in training camps preparing for international tournaments also explain why Lionel does not shine as often for Argentina.
A closer look at Messi’s stats shows he has scored 22 times in 67 caps for Argentina while also providing his teammates with 20 assists. These are decent figures and should not be underestimated. Lione’s numbers for Barca are definitely more impressive but that is once again down to a number of factors mentioned above. The question posed by some is how critical is Messi for the club’s success and what does he provide Barca with?
The answer is simple: Messi is even more important than his goals and his dazzling moves which excite the fans. In La Liga, he has played 24 times and scored a remarkable tally of 28 goals while assisting his teammates 8 times. His 28 goals and 8 assists in La Liga imply that he was behind more than 50% of Barca’s 70 league goals!
His 8 assists are tied for most with Dani Alves while Cesc Fabregas and Xavi have 7 and 6 assists respectively in league play. This is a clear indication that Messi is much more than a scoring machine or a finisher. He is the fulcrum of most if not all of Barca’s attacks and even midfielders such as Fabregas and Xavi have not provided as many assists.
Last season, Messi managed a stunning total of 18 assists and 31 goals in 33 league matches. In this season’s Champions League he has scored 7 goals and given 4 assists in 6 matches. Barca would not be winning all these trophies if Messi did not call the Camp Nou his home. Even if Barca had Wayne Rooney or Edinson Cavani instead of the Argentine wizard, the Catalans would not have enough to win all these titles. Messi has scored in both Champions League finals against Manchester United and he is often the player capable of unlocking the tightest of defenses when his teammates seem to be struggling to find an opening.
Messi has to be considered Barca’s best player ever even at this young age because he has already won multiple La Liga tiles as well as a few Champions League trophies. He makes the impossible look easy as confirmed by this great goal: