Lionel Messi would no longer be playing for Barcelona if it was down to him.
The legendary forward made no secret of his desire to leave Camp Nou in the summer after losing faith in the sporting project under the club’s current president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Messi reluctantly agreed to stay for the 2020-21 season because he didn’t want to take Barça to court in a last-ditch attempt to force his exit, but promised fans he’d continue trying his hardest in every match.
However, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner has not been at his extraordinary best so far this season.
In five La Liga appearances, Messi has scored just one goal and failed to register a single assist. These are stats that you don’t associate with the player who many football fans regard as the greatest of all time.
Messi also struggled to produce his best form during Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the first Clasico of the season.
He produced a fantastic pass which led to Jordi Alba setting Ansu Fati up for the eighth-minute equaliser but has now gone six Clasicos without scoring or assisting a single goal.
No player in Europe’s top five leagues received a higher rating from WhoScored than Messi last season. With a remarkable 25 goals in 21 assists to his name, Messi thoroughly deserved his 8.71 rating.
It's still early days, of course, but it has been a different story so far this term.
Following El Clasico, Messi currently finds himself outside the top 100 highest-rated players in Europe, per WhoScored.com's ratings. (*All stats are correct as of 12pm on October 25).
Let’s take a closer look at the list…
101. Lionel Messi (Rating: 7.35)
90. Richarlison (Rating: 7.38)
77. Mauro Icardi (Rating: 7.42)
62. Serge Gnabry (Rating: 7.49)
60. Patrick Bamford (Rating: 7.51)
54. Ollie Watkins (Rating: 7.54)
48. Ross Barkley (Rating: 7.59)
42. Bruno Fernandes (Rating: 7.62)
38. Ansu Fati (Rating: 7.66)
35. Romelu Lukaku (Rating: 7.69)
24. Sadio Mane (Rating: 7.89)
23. Mohamed Salah (Rating: 7.90)
20. Erling Haaland (Rating: 7.92)
11. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Rating: 8.14)
And now for the current top 10…
10. Andrej Kramaric (Rating: 8.18)
9. Andrea Belotti (Rating: 8.19)
8. Neymar (Rating: 8.25)
7. Dries Mertens (Rating: 8.30)
6. James Rodriguez (Rating: 8.34)
5. Hirving Lozano (Rating: 8.40)
4. Son Heung-min (Rating: 8.40)
3. Harry Kane (Rating: 8.65)
2. Robert Lewandowski (Rating: 8.77)
1. Kylian Mbappe (Rating: 8.80)
Cristiano Ronaldo, for those of you who might be wondering, doesn’t feature on the list because he’s only played two games for Juventus this season.
However, the Portuguese star boasts the highest rating (8.08) of any Juve player this season after scoring three goals and registering one assist in his first two Serie A appearances.
You’d expect to see Messi right up there alongside the likes of Mbappe and Lewandowski in terms of goals and assists, not just outside the top 100 with the same average rating as Gael Kakuta.
Players need to feel happy in order to produce their best form, and Messi clearly isn’t himself right now.
Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we see Messi with a smile on his face once again, producing Man of the Match displays while actually enjoying his football.
- Cristiano Ronaldo sends message to Khabib after shock retirement
- Sergio Ramos's incredible tackle on Lionel Messi in El Clasico
- Messi's face after Madrid scored their third goal said it all