The aftermath of the midweek win over Dynamo Kyiv was understandably not pleasant. People labelled it as the worst performance under Ronald Koeman, and rightly so. After a dominating opening spell, the team seemed to lack desire. The engine seemed to run out of fuel. All of a sudden, it was an inferior team that struggled to press.
Yet, it was a clip that created all the headlines. It was a video that featured the captain Lionel Messi gradually strolling as Dynamo Kyiv were preparing an attack. The player crossed the Argentine at a distance of a couple of feet, if not less, yet Messi did not blink an eye.
Soon, the video flared up a section of the fanbase. Theories were formulated, rumours spread, soon becoming a wildfire. However, efforts to find out the circumstances were never made.
The clock struck 92:47, with Barcelona looking poised for the win. Aside from Leo, Barcelona had all ten players behind the ball ready to stop any potential goal-scoring chances for the opposition. Yet, when one sees the clip, it seems like he ignores the runner.
It is absurd indeed to see such a vast majority of the fanbase pounce on a club legend, no less Lionel Messi for a misinterpreted clip. A segment of the fanbase started sparking theories on how he was no longer dedicated to the badge as he used to be.
However, if one ponders deeply, it is nothing new. Lionel Messi has never been the person to actively involve in the defensive aspect of the game, moreover so in the last few years.
It does not imply that the Argentine never contributes defensively. However, it has not been something one would associate him promptly with. Yet, just for the poor season in front of goal, he had been going through, a ten-second clip on the internet was enough for the rumours to start.
Moreover, does Leo have to touch the ball or actively pressurize to produce an impact for the team?
The six-time Balon d’Or winner proved the point in the very next game, as he has always done. He started on the bench against Betis, yet contributed more to the game in the 45 minutes that he played than any other player did.
His first supplement after coming on led to a goal from Antoine Griezmann, a player who had missed two clear cut chances in the first half. However, Leo did not even have to make contact with the ball for it to happen. It was just a matter of his ingenious spatial awareness and off the ball movement. Yet, to put an end to all the theories of his scoring days coming to an end, he clammed a thunderous shot into the back of the net.
Messi and Griezmann are evolving a wonderful connection on the pitch, and Barcelona are better for it. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
Messi has always decided games for the Catalan giants, irrespective of his scoring numbers or defensive contribution. Conspicuous or inconspicuous, his importance on the field has not diminished. The team looks more cohesive with him in the side. Breaking down defences seems a world easier.
Though his goal contributions are what remain documented in books, his contribution apart from scoring remains far superior. The leadership and vision of the field are unquestionably invaluable for the Blaugranas.
Indeed, Barcelona’s talisman may be going through a rough patch in front of goal. However, digging too deep into defined moment into his game to scapegoat him is not the right way forward. Nevertheless, he is and continues to be one of, if not the most vital player for Barcelona. One must not question his dedication. There is no doubt he will find his best form; it is just a matter of time.