Lionel Messi Excelled In The Least Successful Barcelona Under Guardiola

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.

 Força Barça!!

 Posted by: Francesc Tomàs - Correspondent at ESPN Barcelona

 Join our 27,000 followers on Facebook or Twitter


  1. Very interesting Piece Francesc.. hopefully next season we will have David Villa back to take some of the pressure off Leo's shoulder.. But I personally think that you cant gain something without loosing something else in the process. We surely did gain a player from another world, but we lost lots of cards in the process, Like you said relying heavily on messi cost us 2 titles.. by the end of the season all the teams started to find a solution to our playing style (which mainly depends on giving the ball to messi)

  2. Anonymous14.5.12

    I couldn't put it better myself - The Team needs 3 other regular goal scorers. Whether or not Messi performs, these other goal machines (i.e. The said Players) still combine 2 fetch a win..TITO VILLANOVA - OVER 2 U.
    Name: Dotun

  3. we need another striker alexis hasnt lived up to the expectation we had in him.what can happen if leo is out for a month?I hope tito will sub messi when we are winning by a bigger margin

    buying another striker will make the others fight for a place and it will be good

  4. Azeez Oduneye15.5.12

    I think we need defenders more. Thiago Silva, Alba and Bale will be best. Alaba will also be good though i think †ђξ possibility of signing him is low.
    We need a tall striker, who can score high balls, when opponent teams are ultra defensive.
    Also, Cuenca, Tello should be promoted. One or 2 defenders should be given a chance though, they'l need to learn first.
    Messi is still the best, and i think with him, Barca is safe but he needs to be supported.

  5. Here are 48 more comments on this article, via ESPN Barcelona:

    Posted by amir 19 hours, 54 minutes ago
    This article says it all, I hope Tito Vilanova reads it and takes notes and acts on them as needed

    Posted by Eric 19 hours, 41 minutes ago
    wonderful article! no one seems to understand that Messi cannot win on his own. He has a great team but he needs help. Soccer is a team sport! The days of Maradona and Pele winning single-handedly are over. Training and evolution has changed the way the game is played. Competition is far more fierce.

    Posted by Sam 19 hours, 34 minutes ago
    Without Messi Barcalona would be no better than Swansea. Lots of pretty passes and possession but no one to score or assist the goals. Xavi was average before Messi.
    Barcelona are the one man team in its purest form

    Posted by Alex 19 hours, 29 minutes ago
    Messi is no good under pressure. That is why he is so bad for Argentina. He relies on Xavi and Iniesta to give him the ball with each attack. This is why he scores goals. Barcelona will become more dependant on Messi each year.

    Posted by Tanay 19 hours, 15 minutes ago
    You have brought up a really good point. I think that our forwards and midfielders need to be able to finish because they get a lot of great one on one chances that they fail. I think Pep worked too much on the player's physical abilities so Tilo should work a bit more on finishing chances.

  6. More comments via ESPN:

    Posted by Riassat Karim 19 hours, 15 minutes ago
    Hey man!
    Fantastic article....agree with evrything u said except one thing......
    It's true that it's not right to expect one player to win games all on his own.You say Lionel Messi is "arguably" the best in history.I would have no problem if there hadn't existed one player in particular in the history of football,in my opinion,the greatest player ever..
    It's true that Messi is only 24 and still has time.I've got a feeling that he WILL BE even greater than Maradona by the time he retires.Undoubtedly.But not yet.
    As I was refering to earlier,Maradona singlehandedly dragged the Argentina team to glory in 86 and made a mediocre team like Napoli win the Serie A,more than once.I don't expect Messi to do that,let alone,any other legendary players like Pele,Garrincha or Cruyff.But my question is:If Maradona could do it,why not Messi,if he is REALLY better than Maradona?Again you may say it's unfair to expect that,but then again,to be called the best,you must first "beat" the best

    Posted by jerry 19 hours, 12 minutes ago
    No telling how barca could have done with-out their injurys but thats part of the game. I think barcelona should trade sanchez or villa and cop neymar.

    Posted by Fair play 18 hours, 39 minutes ago
    Strikers: Pedro + Villa + Alexis (Cuenca + Tello)
    Midfield: Iniesta + Messi + Cese (Xavi + Thiago)
    Defense: Puyol + Busquet + Mascherano + Montoya
    Keeper: Valdes
    Sells Pique and Alves and buys replacements
    Best way to handle counter attacks is to have 2 good strong defenders stay near goal keeper whole match.
    Buys Van Persie - imagine how many of last seasons missed chances and free kicks VP could have score for Barcelona in similar situation?

    Posted by lianlian 18 hours, 21 minutes ago
    in my view,even though messi deserves his achievements,he is not the best striker in the world because every striker can be achieved like him at barca squad because barca hold more possession in every matches that makes the striker release himself and find the best way to the net and gives more time to think and analyze the game more than the opponent's forward. so,i wonder if messi can show his talent in other teams except barca. i'm sure that barca made messi great but not he made barca great. barca's playing style of football is making every strikers to score a thousand of goals within a year.its clear the fact that messi ever loses himself and his habit when he plays for national team argentina. there are some people who are expecting messi will bring something special to his national team but messi will never be unless the national team play like barca with more possession and support him a lot. m

    Posted by andrew kiken 18 hours, 3 minutes ago
    The article is very good about the team being to dependent on Messi scoring. Messi would have many more assists if someone else, besides him can score.
    I will have to go back to see if anyone commented on my suggestion that Clint Dempsey a proven goal scorer at a high level who is better than Affelay and Pedro would be amazing for Barcelona. I know to sign an American player is not Barcelona's style to shock the world with internationals. He would be such a good fit in so many ways for Barca.

    Posted by MIMI NEYMAR 17 hours, 44 minutes ago
    Sing striker to help messi to scores goal, like neymar, falcao,suarez,vpc,torres,

    Posted by dahman 17 hours, 38 minutes ago
    Yes Messi could do it, but Barcelona needs only 3 players left front and back wingers and central back witch are Neymar, Bell and Silva....All the others has to play with Messi more like Xavi and Iniesta this year didn't play with Messi enough....thx

  7. More comments via ESPN:

    Posted by Ndiili 17 hours, 28 minutes ago
    We need players with height, Thiago Siva, Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente would be prfct, but most importantly a left back, like Gareth Bale or we can try our luck with the impresive David Alaba, Jordi Alba is gud but we dont need another short player. Sanchez and Pedro will be key next season, lets hope to evade injuries..

    Posted by Ziyad Alam 17 hours, 17 minutes ago
    No doubt messi is the best ever but this is a 11 man game. We need a target man upfront. Messi drops deep all the time and most of the time plays as the attacking midfielder rather than a forward. So the best tactic is to start messi on the right of the front 3 on paper. Knowing messi he will have a free role and will roam all over the pitch. The right wing will be covered by the ever energetic dynamite Dani. We need a strong defensive midfielder who can fill in the gaps. Please get rid of Sergio B who is as slow as a 100 year man!!! We need enforcement in our defense to replace our aging abidal and puyol who have been great servants.

    Posted by Mahammad imaan mahammad 16 hours, 56 minutes ago
    Messi is the best of the world foot ball messi is a very good

    Posted by Moe 16 hours, 55 minutes ago
    i think they really need some more depth in squad? merely playing xavi and ineista all the time and using the same players all the time is kinda making them predictable, i mean you look at madrid, they always switch around with kaka or ozil, benzeema or higuain, marcelo or coentrao, and even there defensive line if they need to.Not to say barca don't switch, but there young guns are future prospects who will need time to grow and can't deliver right now, and you could tell how the pressure really got to tello when he was being overplayed by guardiola. i just think barca need villa back in the squad, his presence is immensely being missed and its showing in the attack on how messi is being forced to do all the scoring at times as mentioned in the article.

    Posted by tom 16 hours, 30 minutes ago
    Ronaldo is actually the worlds best player, he isn't dependant on other players for his successess such as messi, let's see messi play in the premier league, not happening because he isn't physical enough to cope with injuries just look at his height can you see him passing through strong aggressive players easily?

    Posted by Mark 16 hours, 15 minutes ago
    Victor Valdes must go , the guy is just a horrible goal keeper . I mean every single shot at him was a goal in the last 4 games . Either stay in the damn goal or just come forward properly and not half way .
    2-Daniel Alves must be given a long Vacation

    Posted by Cristian Aviles 16 hours, 8 minutes ago
    With return of David Villa, i think next season may not be centered in buying forwards to complement messi in goal scoring but more like the article says in reenforcing the defensive line

    Posted by Hassan 15 hours, 51 minutes ago
    Yes he will becos he is capable of doing it

  8. Posted by Gino 14 hours, 36 minutes ago
    I think we need to get ourselves a starting full back to take the place of Abidal, who I don't know if he'll be back to his best. Adriano just don't cut it for me, don't get me wrong, he is a solid player, but not the quality we are looking for in a starting left back. Our midfield has enough quality to overlook this position, with Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Busquets, and Thiago, that I don't worry too much about it. We need Villa back to 100 percent along with Alexis to make a huge improvement for the next season. Pedro has dropped off much, and Afellay hasn't been healthy all year, so I think adding a quality striker up front that is tall enough to take advantage of the crosses that come in, because we truly lack size up front to head the ball in. I've heard that maybe Llorente would be good for us, but then, we are crowded up front with all these forwards like Tello, Cuenca, Afellay, Pedro, etc. that surely one of them must go to make room for this additional player to play.

    Posted by Anonymous 10 hours, 20 minutes ago
    There is one thing u need 2 say which u didn't say and it's affecting d team in general.d team nids 2 change victor valdes and bring in a good and a worthy shot stopper.

    Posted by The MAN 9 hours, 45 minutes ago
    this says it all

    Posted by Joe Malma 9 hours, 24 minutes ago
    Well said. Messi, for all his greatness, is still human and football is a team sport. I hope Tito can understand English as well

    Posted by Bilal 9 hours, 18 minutes ago
    We need goalkeep...and good defence..messi can lead barca...

    Posted by Jacobs 9 hours, 16 minutes ago
    Well spoken. We need Vila to be fit, strikers and other strikers that can be more creative. We also need good defenders

    Posted by marielena 9 hours, 14 minutes ago
    Great article! Lionel Messiah will lead us to more titles.
    visca el Barca

    Posted by loken 8 hours, 41 minutes ago
    no dought for next season david villa,young star and sommer transfer. they definately win la liga and champion league............. this season also not bad 3 title in hand 1 still in hand

    Posted by mzei 7 hours, 22 minutes ago
    u knw wat guys. I realy luy FCB & messi bt smbdy lyk Neymar or Llorent Barbatov & Bale(must) b added argently. Plz Tito make us great again.

    Posted by Mare 7 hours, 15 minutes ago
    David Villa is the cause of barcer's poor season, he denied us as spectators barceloners full magic. Xavi was also over confident over the ball and our main defence never took things serously they were to care if you look at Torres last minete goal champions legue semi-final against Chelsea and the break away gaol scared Ronaldo in a clasisco decisive match. Guarfdiala is no blame other than ourselve.what Ican promise us as Barce fan we have learned our mistakes, we will prove that next season with a clear straight unbrakeable record of 114 points within 38 goals and Pep will retain to us before 7 he left us.

  9. Posted by luis 7 hours, 12 minutes ago
    Felicito al Barcelona y al pep gualdiola y al mejor jugador del mundo lionel messi y al cuerpo técnicos. Soy hincha del Barcelona Barcelona y la alviceleste siempre los apollare hasta. Que exista en este. Mundo viva messi viva Argentina

    Posted by kent 6 hours, 55 minutes ago
    Yes. Barcelona does not need to sign anyone immediately - apart from obviously, someone to fill in Abidal's left-back role. You should be looking into finding an eventual replacement for Puyol.
    The day you run out of forwards is the day Pinto plays as a striker. If Pedro had not been snubbed for Sanchez this season, and if Villa had not broken his leg playing against that Qatari team, Barcelona would have probably won the league, defeated Chelsea, and would be on its way to Munich.

    Posted by Michael Jacobs 6 hours, 44 minutes ago
    I think this is an excellent article, Francesc, you have instantly become one of my favourite people. I can see the way you write that you are as passionate about Barca as i am.I have suscribe to your FB page and hope to be reading some more of your interesting articles. I haven't been supporting Barca as long as you only about 8 or 9 years now but i'm very passionate about this team. My dream is to go to the Camp Nou and watch Barca play!!!!

    Posted by ajikobi ayodele 6 hours, 5 minutes ago
    The squad is okay.
    Injured villa cost us the season.

    Posted by Rajesh 5 hours, 58 minutes ago
    Quite a good article. As much as the injury of Villa hurt us, the unavailability of Pedro also caused Pep to often tinker with the attacking team. The fact that Alexis could never play 4/5 games together was yet another set back. Messi was the only main figure up there and opposing teams could even manage to keep 3 players specifically for Messi, a la Chelsea. Never should anyone blame Messi. He did much more that what was expected.
    At the same time, Abidal's injury also made sure we permitted important goals at crucial points, a la chelsea and Madrid games. In all these games, most goals were initiated from Abidal's gate, please note. I simply hope next season we will have a consistent attacking trio, with Villa back hopefully. I really dont think we need to buy any more forwards. With Villa/Messi/Alexis and Pedro to alternate and with Cuenca, Tello and Ibi to come off bench, we could manage.We need to strengthen our defence though. A CB,and left back like Alaba may suffice.

    Posted by Solomon Amoah 5 hours, 55 minutes ago
    So fantastic, we've said it all but dont wory, villa will be back, pedro will find his scoring boot again which am sure of, Alexis will do his best next season, all we need is to reenfforce our defenders especialy the left back and center back position.

  10. Posted by EMMANUEL SERGIO BUSQUIETS WAH 5 hours, 46 minutes ago
    We have a good team but there are few things our new boss need to work on,jest to name few; we will have to bring on bord a new goalkeeper.secoundly we will have to add to the defance few young players like DAVID Luwese, and others because of the age of puyol,for middle we are fine.One more thing is a point stracker like Samuel etoo.

    Posted by Rosario 5 hours, 44 minutes ago
    It was a nice article really enjoyed it.
    It is said 25-28,29, that those are your best years and that
    Fills me with optimism when it comes to Leo, and leading barca. This season showed us the quality young players whe have, the for the most part could always be counted on. The players that I feel will step up next season has to be Montoya(in defence), Thiago(building on his good work) and Sunchez(to centre forward and help leo).
    Falco is the player i want to add to attack, but I feel we need heigt so Dzeco(can stand up to centre backs)

    Posted by ridvan 5 hours, 34 minutes ago
    you are very good mesi ronaldo is not good you are best in football

    Posted by Olasheu 4 hours, 35 minutes ago
    Im ree baca fans i soport baca4 live

    Posted by Vinicio Rios 4 hours, 31 minutes ago
    I believe Lio Messi is the backbone of Barcelona attack and he should be helped by using Alexis and
    possibly David Villa. Pedro is also a good option, but I think the magnificent trident is Villa-Messi-Alexis. A lot of pressure must be removed from Messi's shoulder by linking continuously these three players and Barca defense play also a psychological key role on this. It is very hard even for Leo to carry the responsibility of rescuing a match at a stadium with 30.000 people or more chanting opponent’s name without having the right help from his partners. I personally would like to see Robin Van Persie joining the Barca cast and helping Messi on this labor.

    Posted by Lucas Soler 4 hours, 19 minutes ago
    I really enjoyed reading your detailed analysis of this last season, and I walked away agreeing with you. I hope they remediate the deficiencies they currently face.

    Posted by Fidel 4 hours, 3 minutes ago
    Messi needs help in the attack but the greatest weakness for this team is defense. Nicolas Nkoulou must be signed. He has been the star of French league one. Marseille central defender is very smart and skilful. His playing stile fits well with Barca and he is only 22yrs old which means he can only be better with age.He won the man of the match trophy in the finals of French cup and is the top two player as League one player of the year. The lions vice Captain is a hot shut and Barca must splash.There are other defenders out there but Nkoulou fits our system and stile. He is very humble and has a lot of class. Please sign Nkoulou for us and another left back.

    Posted by Subhajit Shome 2 hours, 29 minutes ago
    Develop Tello and Cuenca into two more world class strikers. Barcelona is best when developed from within. No need of spending funds on transfer market on attack. In defence however, raid the market with German, Italian and Dutch defenders.

    Posted by Lina 1 hour ago
    U are right, we really need good defenders,and also good strikers to help the flea(messi),he has really done well but no one can do it all.....

    Posted by Brijesh Ray 53 minutes ago
    Really commentable article;Tito badly need to do some improvisation to make blaugrana the team what they are.Tito have to bring in a valiant effort to buy strikers like Neymar and Aguero who could easily blend with messi and defenders like Thiago Silva and David Luis.Also think a change in GK;I dont think that Valdes is at best now

  11. Messi Messi Messi - best player in the world

  12. The good and BAD:

    Defense: Good enough after the addition of Jordi.
    Midfield: Need a player who can take shots from the D-area and not always pass the ball to Messi.
    Forward: At least one more striker needs to be added who can, especially, utilize the corner kicks and take shots from D-area.
    Finally, Barca should be able to adopt dynamic strategy depending upon the opponent's strategy.

    Then "All is Well"


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