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Lionel Messi is having another unstoppable season

Even though he is just weeks away from his 33rd birthday and has suffered injuries this season, Messi is having another unstoppable season.

Domagoj Kostanjšak

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Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

It hardly comes as a surprise anymore but even when you dare to think he’s slowing down, Lionel Messi will prove you wrong and then add a hat-trick on the side just for good measure. And you could think, well, maybe, now that he’s closing in on his 33rd birthday, that might actually be the case. You’d be wrong yet again.

Just like fine wine, a vintage car or a priceless artefact, Messi is seemingly getting better with age and you can clearly see in the way he moves, controls the ball, creates and above all, scores the goals. The numbers prove it too – Messi is having another unstoppable season.

A total of 21 goals and 14 assists in 24 games played in LaLiga certainly prove as much and that’s also with almost two months spent on the sidelines due to two different injuries. Quite clearly, and yet again, the Argentine is well above the norm.

Karim Benzema’s brace against Valencia the other night brought him a little bit closer to the top but Leo is still ahead and the race for the Pichichi is once again in his hands.

But Barcelona’s grand finale to the 2019/20 season is anything but easy. In fact, looking at the schedule, it has ‘drama‘ written all over it and everything starts with tonight’s trip to Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán where Sevilla, currently the third-placed team, await the Azulgranas.

Julen Lopetegui has a formidable squad at his disposal and Quique Setién may need a bit of magic to get all three points tonight. Luckily for him, he has a magician in the team.

Messi is having another unstoppable season but the real test begins right here and right now – can he drag Barcelona over the line yet again? For him, nothing is impossible but the schedule is packed and unforgiving.

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

It’s still a long way to the finish line but everything is a bit easier when you have an ace up your sleeve. And Barça’s ace, despite getting older, is stronger than any other on the planet.

I’ve been a Barcelona fan for more than half of my life. What started as blind love is slowly turning into professional writing. Now, I get to write about Barca, analyse them, and voice my opinions on them across platforms. I’m happy to be a part of this big project.

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The psychology at Barcelona: A leaf out of Jurgen Klopp’s book

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Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

Guest Contributor: Darren Looney

“When I came here, the size of the club was a burden. Now it’s our safety net, it’s our trampoline, it’s our home, it’s our basis, it’s everything to us. Now we are Liverpool before the club was Liverpool and we were just the guys who were trying to be good enough”.

In Melissa Reddy’s book ‘Believe Us’, Jurgen Klopp, the man who led Liverpool to become champions of England, Europe and the world, details how a change in psychology from having the clubs past success being used as a noose around their necks to becoming fully confident individuals, helped the club end their 30-year wait for a league title.  

FC Barcelona has a noose of its own hanging over the Camp Nou at present. It has been placed there by former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, having left the club in a state that is unable to match the success seen over the last two decades. 

The incoming president and manager will be the ones left to cut it free, and with limited economic resources to do this, a change in the mindsets of the lads could play a part in helping the club get the most out of what they already have. 

Barcelona’s current state

The Josep Maria Bartomeu’s presidency oversaw a circus rather than a football club. In this timeframe, Barcelona lost the respect of its fellow European giants through humiliating performances in the Champions League, selling Neymar Jr. to Paris Saint Germain, poor recruitment, and a squad constantly breaking under pressure.

Players such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Clement Lenglet, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi, and Ousmane Dembele, of those that started in the latest Champions League match, have all been through the most of these embarrassing moments, which has no doubt left some trauma. 

Gerard Pique has been on the end of this drama over and over. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Others in the squad have laid witness to Bartomeu disregarding the club’s motto ‘MÉS QUE UN CLUB’ with his handling of club legends Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi’s transfer situations in the summer. That could not have inspired the non-senior members of the squad with any confidence. 

Adding to that, players like Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Junior Firpo, and Antoine Griezmann have had their names constantly attached to rumoured player plus cash deals, such as the Neymar offers, which can lead to them questioning if they are good enough. This is the sort of psychology you do not want around a club trying to compete.     

When asked about whether a sports psychologist would benefit FC Barcelona back in December, Barça manager Ronald Koeman stated, “I don’t believe in psychologists and mental [issues]. If you play for Barca, pressure exists, you know that, and you have to overcome it”. 

This answer shows the Dutchman’s ignorance of the importance of a player’s psychological state. Additionally, it also shows arrogance about the club and the stress that comes binding with it. Ignorance that is evident in the pictures of Lenglet, as he left the Camp Nou after Sunday’s match in tears, most likely due to a lack of support. The kind of lack of support that eventually leads to careers dissolving.

Lenglet deserves support right now, something he is not getting. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images)

In the same press conference, Koeman stated that “this team has enough personality and experience” to get through bad moments. This “experience” is also susceptible to being psychologically overwhelmed, the dressing room at halftime at Anfield is evidence of this.  

Whether it is Koeman or the next president’s manager, one will have to get a hold of this problem. Luckily for them, the blueprint of how much power the manager can have over this can be seen in the place Jordi Alba shed his tears. 

The Jurgen Klopp effect

When Jurgen Klopp arrived in Liverpool, one of the first things he addressed was a change in psychology from the supporters. He wanted the fans to believe in the process, and in his first press conference, he enforced this by saying, “we need to feel the confidence and trust of the people”.

In ‘Believe Us’, Klopp speaks about the psychological state he found the players in when he first arrived. He claims that “The players were obviously listening to all the voices saying they are not good enough for the club or that I can’t wait to get rid of them.” A situation some Barca players find themselves in now, as mentioned earlier.

Klopp flipped Liverpool around onto its head. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

One of the German’s first instructions was for the players to pay no attention to comments outside of him and his coaching staff, a message that took longer than expected to resonate, as the team collapsed in the title race halfway through the next season.

Klopp explains that the collapse was down to the players not complying with this request. The German explained how the players were focused on people saying, “they don’t have a plan B for deep-defending sides, they can only play one way”. A criticism that Cúlers this season know too well.

Klopp emphasises the importance a strong mentality within games had on the Red’s fortunes and claims new players alone would not have been enough. This is a note worth taking for those looking at Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe to change Barcelona’s fortunes

It took Klopp years to convince some players that they were good enough to play for a club as big as Liverpool. New players added to the quality of the squad but that psychological attitude to keep going for the full 90 minutes, no matter the score, is what led the club to their recent success. This was visible countless times over last season as well, as Pool continued to take hits at teams till the last minute till they eventually broke. Barcelona, too, have been on the receiving end of their incredible mentality.

Koeman might be right in that the players do not need a sports psychologist. However, Lenglet’s incident exhibits that the psychological state of his players is something that he must take control of and not ignore.  

Barcelona need to become one unit to strive forwards as a team. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Next season has the potential to be an important one for Barcelona’s near future. With a new president at the helm and a potential new manager. The Catalan side needs to banish the psychological doubts leftover by Bartomeu’s reign and move forward as one unit. 

The fans and players need to get behind the project put in place, as Jurgen Klopp puts it “when you agree on a common idea and work towards it together, you can create something special”.

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