Not so long ago, Lionel Messi had the look of a player, and a man, who had given up on life at Barcelona.
The tumult of last summer appeared to have taken its toll on arguably the greatest footballer of all time as he cut a languid, frequently disinterested, figure.
This was, apparently, the beginning of the end for Messi, at least as a Barca player.
Messi shining at Camp Nou
The picture has changed rather dramatically since then. While Messi was previously going through the motions as a Barcelona player, he is now leading them on a charge back to the top of La Liga.
The 33-year-old has scored 17 and assisted six in 18 games in 2021 with Monday night’s win over Huesca a demonstration of all he offers.
Many of the classic Messi hallmarks were there as Barca dismantled La Liga’s bottom side to move within four points of Atletico Madrid at the top of the table – two left-footed stunners from distance, a pinpoint cross for an assist, the dribbling and perhaps most importantly the sense of comfort and even enjoyment.
Barcelona’s driving force
A resolution has still to be reached on Messi’s future, with the Argentine out of contract at the end of the 2020/21 season, but he no longer looks like a player waiting for his next challenge.
Messi is once again Barcelona’s driving force and spiritual leader, embracing his new role as a mentor to youngsters like Pedri, Riqui Puig and Oscar Mingueza.
It’s impossible to ignore the off-field factors that may have acted as a catalyst for Messi this season. With the Barcelona election now in the books and Joan Laporta set to take charge at the Camp Nou in the coming days, Messi now has a clearer picture of what his future at the club might look like.
Of course, Messi is a different sort of player to the one Laporta dealt with during his first stint as Barca president. He can no longer play at full intensity for a full 90 minutes, but the 33-year-old is as influential as ever at the Camp Nou.
Just a few months ago, the final chapter of Messi’s Barcelona legend looked like being a sad one. Now, he could be set for a glorious renaissance as the bridge between one generation and the next. Stories of Messi’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
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