Millennium Post

Lionel Messi 2.0 New and improved

Messi understands just how important the game is to the Cules, which is why the need to be the consistently unfailing hero of Barca’s success story is realised most urgently by this one scrawny lad, writes Ananya Das.

Most clubs would be happy with their eight consecutive wins. With that kind of a start to the season, they'd, in fact, be over the moon; but alas, Barcelona FC is not like most clubs. They did not have a great summer, not in the least. Having lost one of their most important players to the French club Paris Saint Germain, as Neymar now fights over the penalties, the controversies seemed unending for the Spanish giants as the club board's behaviour in all of this was undeniably concerning. All signs pointed towards an unnerving start to the season; but despite all of that, they have actually managed to do pretty well for themselves. They now sit comfortably at the top of the table with five points clear of Sevilla and seven off Real Madrid. There's one person Barcelona should thank in all of this, Lionel Messi.

Over the years, suspicions have been raised over Lionel Messi's ability to score goals and get Barcelona out of trouble. But those doubts are slowly and steadily vanishing as Messi has time and again proven that he is the greatest footballer of this era. The 30-year old has already nabbed 12 goals to his name this season, by winning a four-goal haul against Eibar, the double he scored against the Italian club Juventus and not to forget, the one he scored against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup. Along with his hairstyle, Messi keeps improving his game and blessing his fans with the display of exquisite skill-set. Messi is not even a traditional striker, so to speak.
He doesn't hold the ball or stand at the end of the defence line; he doesn't do all this because he irks so much more than that. He is the epitome of creativity, a force to be reckoned with. Many have pointed out that Messi is only the greatest because he has the best support system to play alongside him. Sure, he had Xavi and Iniesta and now he has Luis Suarez, but that does not take away the fact that the promise of finishing, that is required of a player, should be maintained. The Argentine has delivered on that promise every single time, never faltering and living up to it, at the most crucial times.
Three years ago, when Neymar signed for Barcelona, the world rejoiced thinking that they had finally recognised an heir to the greatness that is executed by Messi; Neymar had proven to be just that. He was the knight in shining armour to the club and its massive base of fans. But somehow, he was always stuck in the shadow of La Pulga. The once glorified trident between Messi-Suarez-Neymar has now reached its end, as only one remains on the field, with Neymar bidding goodbye and Suarez battling with his form. It is Lionel Messi, who has single-handedly displayed brilliance to win Barcelona most of their crucial games. This is not to say that other Barca players have not been of much worth, but can one really match up to the formidable powerhouse that is Messi? Many rightfully think that Ronaldo should also be presented in the 'greatest ever' club, but Messi stands to be rated higher, because football is a game of power and pace and Leo has managed to attain the best of both in a 5 ft 7-inch frame. This task is more daunting than it seemingly appears. However, we are not going to` talk about just how good Lionel Messi is because we know exactly how good he is. The main deliberation here is whether or not Messi has upped his ante since Neymar left for PSG. And, the answer to that is an unwavering yes.
Yes, Lionel Messi has improved his game since the Brazilian left for the Parisian club. But, that is not because he had the scope for improvement, he did so because he was left with very little choice. As mentioned earlier, Suarez has been out of form for a while now and with their new signing Ousmane Dembele injured, Messi is left with no choice but to become the club's own personal hero, and he's done exactly that. To put things in clear perspective, Lionel Messi has created 39 shots this season and Barcelona as a team has created only 37, add more to it, Messi has found the back of the net 12 times already this season and the team's combined goal count only stands at a mere seven goals. Overall, Messi has performed better than his whole team and that is telling.
With Neymar squabbling over penalty shots and Dembele who has only played about 122 minutes since his debut for the Spanish team, has found himself on the injury list for now. It is for Lionel Messi alone to step up and be the boss by controlling the reigns with his finesse and perfect finishing. That is exactly what he has done. Last season they lost the La Liga title to their bitter rivals Real Madrid and this season they sit atop by being seven points clear of them. If that is not a turnaround, then the essence of the word is lost.
A fact that can never be reiterated enough is that Lionel Messi is one of those players who does not need an entourage of supporting companions to assist him in breaking all records. So far, he has been the best scorer, the best creator and the best facilitator for the team he calls home. Through all the unrest and disputes, he has stood by and watched over the club by being the leading talisman that he is. His new coach Valverde has only praises to shower at his brilliance, saying, "There are no words to describe him. He's an incredibly talented player, extraordinary!"
There is no reason why we should not expect Messi to break all records this season. He has a higher goal scoring ratio than any other player in the La Liga, at the moment. His dribbling ratio is up and his conversion rate is higher than any other player's. Talk about all the stats that we can find, there will be many, but one of the few things that Messi has that others don't is the ability to arouse pure joy as he sets foot on the field, resonating the highest pinnacles of excellence. On any given night, he doesn't play for himself but he plays for the club and its loyal fans, who swear by Messi's precision. He understands just how important the game is to the Cules, which is why the need to be the consistently unfailing hero of Barca's success story is realised most urgently by the one scrawny lad, Lionel Messi, who is nothing short of a living legend.

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