Lionel Messi has won the La Liga Pichichi (top goalscorer) award after scoring a superhuman 50 goals in 37 matches. If we consider all competitions, La Pulga's tally adds up to a tremendous 72, which is more than any other player has ever achieved in any major European league.
While Leo Messi's goalscoring record is obviously a legendary individual achievement, I would be much happier if those goals actually meant Barcelona had won at least one of the two major trophies this season.
Lionel Messi's Best Season
Lionel Messi has just completed his best La Liga season since his debut at only 17 years of age. After years of learning from legends such as Ronadinho, Eto'o and Henry, La Pulga was given Barcelona's iconic Number 10 when Pep Guardiola started managing the Blaugranas in the summer of 2008, leading our team to winning 13 out of the last 17 competitions we entered.
During their time together, Guardiola has progressively built Messi into the total footballer: Incredibly quick at passing, skilled when dribbling, generous when assisting and lethal when shooting. Simply looking at La Pulga's stats in this La Liga season can make any rival football fan panic: 50 goals with only 201 shots attempted, 36 out of 38 matches started, 14 assists... The list goes on and on.
Barcelona Suffers From Messi-Dependence
Such numbers have, whether Cules like it or not, turned Lionel Messi into a deadly weapon which other Barcelona players rely upon when matches turn ugly, a sort of ace hidden up our sleeve. Unfortunately for us though, nobody is humanly capable of carrying the responsibility of such a high profile team on their own shoulders at all times - not even our Little Argentinian Pulga.
Let's look a bit closer at Lionel Messi's goalscoring stats:
1. While Messi has put Barcelona ahead in a league match this season with 14 of his 50 goals, it is also true that 19 of his 50 goals lifted the score to a margin of 3 goals or more in our advantage. In other words, nearly 40% of Leo's goals didn't have a direct impact on Barcelona winning matches in La Liga this season.
2. Barcelona dropped only 2 points this season in the 25 league matches in which Messi scored but won only 3 of the 12 games in which Messi failed to find the net. In other words, Barcelona were far too dependent on La Pulga's performances and found it incredibly hard to break rival defenses whenever he wasn't at his usual excellent standard.
3. Lionel Messi scored 35 of his 50 goals at the Camp Nou, only failing to score against Real Madrid and Sevilla. His away form wasn't as impressive, scoring 'only' against 8 out of 19 teams. In other words, Barcelona's poor point return away from home (which has ultimately cost us the La Liga title) has been directly influenced by our opponent's ability to frustrate Lionel Messi's goalscoring efforts.
What Went Wrong For Barcelona In La Liga?
Lionel Messi is an absolute legend and arguably the best player to ever play the game in over 130 years of football history. Having said that, it is foolish to expect a single player to win every match single-handedly.
Pep Guardiola transformed Messi's career forever when he created the 'False Nine' position for him within our classic attacking formation - Stroke of genius. However, it is also true that our Barcelona team has become too Messi-dependent, especially since David Villa's injury earlier this season.
As Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Higuain showed in La Liga this year, a team who wants to succeed in modern European football must have at least 3 consistent goalscorers which rival defenses need to worry about.
As Drago explained in this previous article, the trident of Messi (38), Samuel Eto'o (36) and Thierry Henry (26) scored exactly 100 goals between them in our treble year (2008/09). A year after, Pedro (23) and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (21) ably supported Messi's 47 goals. Last season (2010/11), our M-V-P strikeforce scored 98 goals with Messi's 53 goals being augmented by the efforts of David Villa (23) and Pedro (22).
In this season's La Liga, Messi netted 50 goals but his legendary return was poorly followed by Alexis (12), Xavi (10), Fabregas (9), Villa (5) and Pedro (5). Definitely not good enough for a club who proudly sings 'Tots units fem força' (Together we are stronger).
What Barcelona Must Change
Tito Vilanova has many tasks to worry about as soon as Pep Guardiola departs in less than two week's time. As I explained here, his first priority must be reinforcing our defensive line but, to be honest, ensuring Lionel Messi is better supported upfront must follow very shortly after.
Barcelona are lucky to have such a genius within the squad but must make better use of his skills in the future. Allowing Messi to play every second of every match has obviously played a major part on his fitness when titles were decided but, to be honest, the pressure of knowing nobody else within the team would step up and take the goalscoring responsibility off him must have been mentally exhausting.
As our matches against Real Madrid and Chelsea clearly showed, Barcelona suffer immensely whenever Lionel Messi can't combine freely with Xavi and Iniesta or his diagonal runs from the wings are well-defended.
As a life-long Cule fan, I expect Tito Vilanova to provide Barcelona, and Lionel Messi, with a much more competitive attacking solution next season. Time for others to step up and share the goalscoring responsibility in order to take our team forward.
Have Your Say
What did you think of this article?
Do you think Lionel Messi can lead Barcelona to more success next season?
Which of the current players do you trust to make an impact in the near future?
Who would you sign to improve our attack?
Did I miss out on any important points you would like to share with us?
I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.
Posted by: Francesc Tomàs - Correspondent at ESPN Barcelona
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