Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez have been one of the deadliest duos in football history, but with the latter’s decline, their friendship may be having a negative impact on the game. Is this strong bond one of Leo’s rare flaws?
Lionel Messi has been the greatest player in the history of football. Watching him play leaves every football fan dumbstruck. Even as he ages into his twilight years, he manages to surprise viewers. He has been carrying Barcelona on since the departure of club legends like Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández. When one thinks of Barcelona, the first thing that springs to mind is Messi. He has been a defining player in the history of the club and of football as a whole. But he isn’t without his flaws. However, unlikely as it might seem, Messi is still a human.
On the technical side of things, Messi is the definition of perfection. But his Achilles’ heel happens to be something that shows us his human side. La Pulga has a special influence in the Barcelona dressing room, due to obvious reasons. In most cases, this has led Barça to great heights. Sometimes, though, even he makes mistakes.
Luis Suárez has been playing the entire 90 minutes for quite a few games now. It would be normal to think that Suárez’s name should definitely be one of the first in the line-up. Nonetheless, the fact is that Suárez is in bad form. Really bad form. Since his knee surgery, his age seems to have caught up with him and it is obvious that he has lost some of the assets that once made him so threatening in front of goal. He cannot make those clever runs anymore, and neither can he shoot with as much accuracy.
“We always try to have Suárez and Messi on the pitch. It is difficult to find a place for Griezmann without destabilising the team”
after having benched Antoine Griezmann against Atlético de Madrid
This raises the questions: why is he still playing the entire 90 minutes? And, if one only wants to use his pure class to shine through and help win difficult games, why isn’t he brought on in the final 30 minutes when he can work harder and give it his all instead of saving himself for entire games?
One answer that immediately springs to mind is his relationship with Lionel Messi. The duo are very close to each other and it is quite possible that Suárez has appealed to Messi. Maybe it begins with a “Give me some time, and I’ll be back to my best”. Maybe it continues with a “Oh, it’s just bad luck and rustiness, it will pass”. But where does it end?
It is extremely difficult to say no to a person who has been your best friend and dear teammate for the past six years. It is difficult to see that the man you used to link up with so magnificently is on a drastic decline. Perhaps it is denial on Messi’s part and perhaps it is the combination of Leo’s opinion and the coach’s decisions. But it is highly likely that the Argentine has something to do with it.
The Messi–Suárez should have a positive, not negative, influence on the pitch | Photo by Kirchner / Neundorf via Imago
Even on the pitch, it is evident that Messi is constantly trying to find El Pistolero. Lionel might be trying to help Suárez find his old self. In fact, it even has even worked on some occasions, with Suárez’s two goals against Celta de Vigo a result of the deadly combination. But more often than not, it hasn’t worked.
Suárez has lost possession quite often, and he can no longer run past defenders or make exquisite runs. His touch has been poor and we can only see glimpses of his former self. Not just that: Messi’s attempt to find Suarez has often seen Antoine Griezmann overlooked. The Frenchman has been poor in front of goal, but he has also suffered due to lack of service.
Messi’s supernatural link with Suárez has been a force to deal with for the last five years. But maybe it is time for Leo to accept that the number 9 isn’t what he used to be. It is time for him to accept that Luis will better serve the club by coming off the bench, or at least being subbed off after 60 minutes. This is just speculation, and none of us really knows how much influence does Messi have in the team selections. But if he has any, the coach and footballers should be able to separate the off-field matters from the on-field ones.
Luis Suárez has been an integral part of the team for a long time, but it is Messi’s responsibility as captain to realise that he must put the game over his friendship and move on. The effects of the same can be seen throughout the blaugranas‘ game style, and it is high time that the dressing room realises the same.
Should Barcelona trust Oscar Mingueza more often?
Barcelona are going through their worst period ever. The Catalan giants have suffered from an institutional crisis, an injury crisis, an economic crisis and a lack of tactical awareness. For a club that was on top of Europe a decade ago, the shift in mood is gloomy, to say the least.
However, even during times of grief, there is always some light. There are no never-ending tunnels, and often, crisis leads to solutions. Some solutions are more radical, while others show their faces step by step.
To answer Barcelona’s injury problems, one that surrounded Gerard Piqué, Samuel Umtiti and Ronald Araujo, one man came to Barcelona’s rescue. The absentees forced Ronald Koeman’s hand in giving Oscar Mingueza his well-deserved Barcelona debut against Dynamo Kyiv.
The defender is a tall 21-year-old who has been through every La Masia team. Ever since he turned 7, the Spaniard has been waiting for his chance, and Piqué’s horrible injury propelled him into getting his long-awaited opportunity. Away in Ukraine, the youngster showed a lot of promise. Vocal, superb with his feet and calm with his head, Mingueza was one of the best Blaugrana players on the pitch.
As captain of Barcelona B, Oscar Mingueza is one of the most experienced CBs in the youth sides. (Photo via Imago)
The situation was precarious for Barça at first. They went in with a makeshift defence and dominated the encounter. The same defence proceeded to frustrate the Ukrainians.
In truth, the La Masia graduate showed much more than just a promise, he showed a lot of character. Mingueza looked like a natural, as Jordi Alba said; like a player in his prime rather than a rookie.
Now, after catching everyone’s eyes, the debutant has to continue to mirror that display in order to become a mainstay. His display on Tuesday has given a lot of hope to Culés and could be the answer to many questions. He could become a reliable backup or, if he still shows this level of performance, become a regular. It is up to him to show if he is up for the fight.
Usually for Barcelona, when things go South, they are uncontrollable. The recent displays, along with the accumulations of injuries, have shown that when it rains, it pours at Camp Nou.
When Leo Messi goes down injured, for example, the Catalans look worried and anxious because they have no replacement. Having a big squad sometimes does not mean having a complete squad. Every team needs to know where they are headed and who will play in case of a watershed during the season. However, the giants finally have a complete squad.
Ronald Koeman left out Frenkie de Jong and Messi against Kyiv, and the Blaugranas were able to take control of the situation in their absence. The Dutch midfielder is also the usual suspect when a defender goes down injured. On Tuesday, Koeman might have discovered an alternative to de Jong at centre-back.
Indeed, Mingueza is not the finished product. He needs time to grow and cannot play every game like a veteran. He has to be embedded intelligently in the squad.
Nonetheless, in desperate times, the ball-playing centre-back looks like a great alternative. His attitude showed many signs of ripeness, and he can at least help when his club needs him. As a La Masia graduate, Mingueza will fit right in.
Also, as a youth player, the defender costs next to nothing compared to Umtiti’s salary, for example. Having a cheap alternative which has been waiting for this chance since he was a kid is the way to go. If Barcelona want to go back to their roots, they have to trust Mingueza.
📰 — Mingueza played a very good game vs Kyiv, and his great performance could earn him a starting spot alongside Lenglet against Osasuna on Sunday. [md] pic.twitter.com/bZHhWeLFiw— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) November 25, 2020
Finally, it is worth noting that this was one game, and so the sample size is incredibly tiny. That said, no one starts with a dominating display against Atletico Madrid right off the bat.
Would the 21-year-old have had a Man of the Match performance on Saturday if Piqué was not a starter? Is it plausible to have blind faith in a youngster after one impressive display? Surely not.
After making his debut a memorable one, Oscar Mingueza needs to come in strong against the bigger guns and help Barcelona fill in for Pique, whose void is a behemoth. He can achieve it and have a bright future at Camp Nou if he keeps his feet on the ground. It all starts with another superb performance against Osasuna this weekend.