For over an hour at the Camp Nou last Wednesday, Barcelona looked destined to be heading out of this season’s Champions League, but by the end of 90 minutes, one half-fit man had come on to salvage the situation as usual: Lionel Messi.
Despite the fact that Barca made history by becoming the first team in Champions League history to reach the semi-finals for six consecutive seasons, the manner in which they progressed has overshadowed their record-breaking feat. Instead of lauding their achievements, the footballing world has instead decided to re-open the debate about Barca’s over-dependence on Messi.
Until Messi was introduced, the supposed “greatest team ever” looked below-par and were clearly second best to Carlo Ancelotti’s PSG. The La Liga leaders failed to pose any threat to Salvatore Sirigu’s goal and struggled to gain a foothold in the match.
With 28 minutes left, Messi came on and had an almost immediate impact on the match. Although he was unable to add to his eight goals for this season’s Champions League campaign, he breathed life into the Barcelona attack and ran riot among the PSG defence in the build up to the all-important equaliser scored by Pedro.
Messi seems to bring something extraordinary to the Barca team. His every touch oozes class and, most of the time, he single-handedly changes matches with his spark of magic. This has led many to question the effectiveness of the Barcelona pattern of play in his absence - although it would be unwise to doubt the brilliance and class of the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.
The tiki-taka style of play still flourishes well in Messi’s absence as Barcelona still dominate their opponents in overwhelming fashion, but it looks like it is all a combination of passes leading to nothing when the Ballon d’Or winner isn’t on the pitch.
Messi has scored 57 goals this season already, a staggering 43 more than Barca’s next top scorer, David Villa; a fact which clearly underlines how invaluable Messi’s goals have been to the Blaugrana’s campaign.
However, one cannot categorically conclude that Barca are a one-man team as that would mean forgetting that almost the same set of players have won the World Cup and two European Championships in a row with the Spanish national team playing the same pattern without Messi.
The debate on whether Barcelona are a one-man team with their over-reliance on Messi will continue to linger on for a long time, but the fact remains that the star of this golden generation of La Masia graduates is undoubtedly Messi.
The Times summed it up well when they said: "Barcelona are not a one-man team, it’s just that Messi can make all the difference, even on one leg."
What do you think? Are Barcelona a one-man team or not? Have your say in the comments box below.
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