Paul Scholes was in attendance for Barcelona’s narrow victory over Valencia last Sunday and witnessed, what he believes, to be a team lacking the intensity of previous years and suffering from boredom.
Chief among the ‘bored’ Barcelona players, claims Scholes, is Lionel Messi who it is suggested is devoid the swagger and the desire he had in abundance during Pep Guardiola’s illustrious reign at the Camp Nou.
Messi had scored eight goals in his previous four appearances before the game at the Mestalla, in which Barcelona laboured to a last gasp victory, and Scholes was less than impressed by what he saw from the Argentine and his teammates.
“As for Messi, his achievements put him in a different category to the rest of us who played the game,” Scholes wrote in his column for The Independent.
“But even so, in him, as much as anyone, I detected that mood of boredom."
“He has never been a player given to chasing the full-back when his team lose the ball, but now, more than ever, he keeps his movement to an absolute minimum.”
Scholes believes Luis Enrique, in his first season as the manager as Barcelona, has a difficult task to motivate a group of players who, in the main, have won every club competition available to them over the past few seasons.
During his visit to Valencia, as a guest of Peter Lim, Scholes felt a level of sympathy for Enrique as he strived to get his Barcelona players to operate with a greater level of urgency - advice that the Manchester United legend believes fell on deaf ears.
Scholes played in two Champions League finals against Barcelona during his Manchester United days, losing both, so he is seemingly well placed to offer an assessment of their supposed deterioration.
Barcelona triumphed over Manchester United in Rome in 2009 and again two years later at Wembley, with Messi scoring in each final.