It was always assumed that Lionel Messi would eventually drop deeper as his career progressed.
Despite his status as one of the best goalscorers in history, the legendary Barcelona forward has always possessed many more strings to his bow than simply putting the ball in the net.
He’s always been a magnificent passer, while his touch and vision are also unrivalled. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see him pop up in midfield these days, taking the ball from defence before feeding his teammates further up the pitch.
Messi admitted last year that he now thinks less about scoring goals and more about contributing to the team effort.
“Today I am less obsessed with goals,” he told reporters in October, per Goal. “I try to contribute as much as I can to the team effort.”
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner still scores plenty of goals (31 in 44 games last term, and 16 goals in 25 games this season at the time of writing), but appreciates he won’t be scoring two, three or four goals every week like he used to - and he’s fine with that.
Barcelona hit five goals past Granada on Wednesday night as they progressed to the Copa del Rey semi-finals with a 5-3 victory.
Messi didn’t get on the scoresheet but still produced a stunning Man of the Match performance.
Dictating the tempo of the game, as he so often does, Messi provided the assist for Antoine Griezmann’s first goal and terrorised Granada all evening.
SofaScore awarded Messi a perfect 10/10 rating, noting that he had 155 touches, produced 86 accurate passes (10 of which were classed as ‘key passes’), completed nine out of 13 attempted dribbles and had seven shots on target.
His heat map shows just how dominant he was….
One fan’s tweet, meanwhile, is going viral on Twitter.
The tweet claims to show the difference between what Messi and Juventus star Cristiano Ronaldo offer their respective teams when they don’t score…
Admittedly, this feels a little harsh on Ronaldo. There must be numerous examples where he’s made a significant contribution without scoring a goal for Juve.
That said, it’s not unfair to suggest that Messi offers a lot more than Ronaldo in terms of all-round play.
Ronaldo is a remarkable goalscorer - arguably the best we’ve ever seen - and unlike Messi, he still lives to score goals.
We saw that earlier this week where he looked angry after being substituted by his manager, Andrea Pirlo, while on a hat-trick against Inter Milan.
That insatiable appetite to score goals is what makes him such an incredible competitor and world-class performer, though. You wouldn’t want to take that hunger out of him.
But in terms of overall contribution to the team in those rare games where they both fail to score, it’s true there’s probably only one winner these days.