Luis Enrique started an enormous storm when he decided to start Lionel Messi on the bench against Real Sociedad during Barcelona’s match following the winter break. The manager was already being questioned about his decision-making and tactics during the club’s first half. But his decision to bench the club’s star player against David Moyes side – and the subsequent 1-0 loss at the Anoeta stadium – sparked fury from Barcelona supporters and led to an inquisition from the Spanish press.
Stories about a broken relationship between the manager and his Argentine player were flying around the media, with Enrique’s job at the Catalan club reportedly in the balance due to poor communication and man-management skills.
While questions still remain about the Barcelona boss’ relationship with his star player (as well as the rest of the squad), what can be said is that the events surrounding the 1-0 loss to Real Sociedad have clearly had an impact of the play of Messi as of late.
Since the defeat, the Argentina international has played four games and has scored in every one of them. The only match Messi did not participated in was Barcelona’s “dead” second leg against Elche in the Copa del Rey.
In four matches, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner has scored six times and assisted on another three goals. He scored the winning-goal after slotting home his own penalty miss during yesterday’s first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final against a resolute Atletico Madrid and was clearly the man of the match at the Camp Nou.
Messi was Barcelona’s biggest threat against the reigning champions of Spain last night, with his display leading BeinSPORTS announcer Ray Hudson to use just about every superlative in broadcaster’s extensive vocabulary.
Diego Simeone’s side has been the Argentine forward’s most frequent victims over the course of his career – Messi has now scored 22 times against Atletico Madrid.
The Argentina international now turns his attention back to the league, where Barcelona trail league-leading Real Madrid by a single point on the La Liga table. Messi will look to continue his recent displays – while adding to his club leading 19 goals and eight assists in the league – this weekend against Elche.
Messi has come out re-energized since the media storm of a few weeks ago when he was benched at the Anoeta stadium in San Sabastian. His efforts have thrust Barcelona back into the title race and put his club in a strong position to advance to the semi-final of the Copa del Rey – with a Champions League Round of 16 tie against Manchester City on the horizon next month.
Seems like Messi has caught fire at just the right time for Barcelona.
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