Football

Lionel Missi: It's time for Messi to hand over penalty taking duties

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Lionel Messi's lengthy lay-off of around eight weeks is a big blow for Barcelona - massive in fact - even if they still boast the likes of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Andres Iniesta.

One area where they may prosper without the Argentine, who suffered knee ligament damage, though, is from the penalty spot.  

In the game before last, against Levante, the striker recorded his sixth penalty miss from his last 12 - his 15th from 65 overall. He did manage to convert another from 12 yards in the same game, but it's still not good enough. This is not a mere blip - Messi seriously has a problem taking penalties.   

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It doesn't matter that he scored two and directly assisted another that game, nor that he often wins games virtually on his own - the simple fact of the matter is that he should not be taking penalties.

If you were going to weigh up what is best for the team when the situation arises, you would say that someone other than the 28-year-old should take them.

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If there comes a time when a match's outcome relies on the scoring of a penalty, putting Messi in charge could genuinely prove costly, just as it did in the 2011/12 Champions League semi-final against 10-man Chelsea when he hit the woodwork and the Catalans were eventually knocked out. 

The fact that the best - or joint best - player in the world struggles to put a free shot from 12 yards past a goalkeeper is really quite mind-blowing, and maybe now Messi will be out for a while Barcelona can find someone else to take over penalty duties.

The even more bewildering thing is that you would have thought by now that Messi himself - or even manager Luis Enrique - would have relieved himself of the duty.

However, there have been long-held perceptions that Messi, in effect, runs first-team affairs at the Catalan club. He is obviously a powerful figure, purely for the effect he has in games, but that doesn't make it okay for him to take penalties - it is whoever is the best person for the job that takes them, otherwise it's a dictatorship. 

Teddy Sheringham missed a few penalties at the start of his Manchester United career, so he - or maybe Alex Ferguson - handed over the duties to Denis Irwin.

Wayne Rooney, who admittedly has made his successful conversion rate go up over the past year, has a terrible record from the spot, mainly to do with him running up to the ball and taking it like it's a free-kick. Responsibilities were eventually given to the departed Robin van Persie.

The same has to be done at Barcelona as, like the game against Chelsea, it could be the difference between winning and losing.  

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Topics:
Barcelona
Lionel Messi
Football

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