Dare You Bet Against Lionel Messi on this?
Last Tuesday night in Germany, I watched my ex-club, Borussia Dortmund lock horns with Barcelona, as this year’s European Champions league kicked off. Sadly, all I could think about was: how did Barcelona regress so low to this point that begs for pity?
It was a “Lionel Messi less” first 60 Minutes of Play and only 2 Barcelona players impressed: Not Sergio Busquets, Franky de Jong, Jordi Alba, Luis Suarez, nor Gerard Piqué, Antoine Griezmann. It was just midfielder Arthur and goalkeeper, Marc-André Ter Stegen.
In the game of soccer, a team is deemed to be in trouble if it’s most active and best players on the football pitch are the goalkeeper or the defensive players from defensive zones.
Fast back to the 7th of may 2019 and the venue is Anfield stadium Liverpool. Liverpool having lost the first leg of the champions league semi-finals 2019 by 3 goals to nothing at the Camp Nou in Spain, played hosts.
With a full house, the legendary Lionel Messi present, the world was shocked as Barcelona were eliminated by 4 goals to 0. No one in their sane mind, outside Liverpool players, technical crew and die-hard fans of Liverpool could have really a 100% believed in a possibility of such a result!
It felt like something hard to repair had been broken on that day for Barcelona.
Watching them vs Dortmund, in my 30 years close to top world soccer, I have never seen Barcelona look so disorientated and totally out of sorts, be it defensively, build up and worse still attacking which is the pride of this club.
Had Marc Andrée Ter Steggen, the goal keeper not produced out of this world saves to deny Dortmund amongst others, a penalty, a 3-0 defeat could have been a flattering result for Barcelona.
I have always loved watching this club, Barcelona, play, from the Johan Cruyff era as coach till date, their philosophy of “working” the ball to win matches has always fascinated me!
It will be not only unfair but also inhuman to point sole guilty fingers at the coach, Ernest Valverde! Of course, as the coach he does bear some responsibilities, just as he deserved praise for Barcelona being crowned league Champions of Spain, in may 2019, but in my opinion, the cause is way deeper than just the coach.
Lionel Messi is definitely going to be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever play football, but programming all the team’s fortune solely on him, as is the case today is no longer going to cut it, even for a Messi!
Lionel Messi did eventually come off the bench to play the last 30 minutes Vs Dortmund and immediately you could see he was calling all the attacking shots, all balls were played towards him, and in all fairness, Barcelona looked a bit better, But as a team they are far behind as the current best teams in the world!
I was not at all surprised to see Barcelona lose 2-0 to newly promoted Grenada at the weekend, after this Dortmund encounter, as I had witnessed first hand a team that is full of hidden issues that need solving!
Tactically it was shocking to see how many touches most players took before passing the ball to a team mate, synonymous with a team lacking ideas and prepared schemes for build-up. Could it be because most schemes were Messi dependent and his absence triggered a vacuum?
Barcelona have no choice, I feel it is time they start thinking past this generation of Barcelona players, just as no man lives forever, Messi and his mates will not play forever neither.
Let’s hope they get their act together soon or it might just end up being a very long season for every Barcelona fan and their sympathizers.
Having said that, a team that has a fit Lionel Messi in its squad, could still be crowned Spanish champions come next May 2020, never bet against this “Alien” called Lionel Messi