How Lionel Messi has stepped up for Barcelona after Neymar's departure

Lionel Messi is, undoubtedly, the most influential player in FC Barcelona history, The Argentina star has played a major part in bringing the Catalan giants to the very top of world football, contributing to a mind-boggling 29 collective titles since making his professional debut back in 2004 -- and breaking an endless amount of club, country and international records in the process.

Remarkably, Messi has managed to step up his individual contribution for Barcelona this season. Whether this is a direct result of Neymar's departure or Luis Suarez's inability to return to his best form remains unclear but, clearly, the No.10 has become an even more obvious focal point for Barca's offense under the direct tutelage of Ernesto Valverde.

Many Culés around the world feared that Barcelona would struggle to replace Neymar as, clearly, he was instrumental to the Catalans' success in recent years, particularly in 2015. Given the Brazilian international's decision to leave for PSG in late August, the board had very limited, expensive options to find a replacement for the influential No.11 -- with record-signing Ousmane Dembele ultimately landing at the Camp Nou for a potential fee of €145 million.

As explained in more detail in The Barcelona Podcast 39, Messi's growth is clearly evidenced by his ever-improving individual stats. The diminutive No.10 has scored a total of 14 goals in just 11 matches for Barcelona and is currently on track to improve his best ever goalscoring season in Liga, which is currently set at 50 goals. Perhaps even more impressively, La Pulga has hit the woodwork seven times already which means that, with a bit of luck, he would be on 21 goals already!

Out of the 57 shots he has taken on goal in La Liga, 33 have been on target, which is exceptional. The 6.8 shots per game he is taking is also ahead of his career average, currently at 5.1. This clearly reflects Leo's more incisive attitude in front of goal and his more decisive emphasis on leading his team forward whenever needed.

While it can be argued that Messi's more individualistic approach could hurt the team in the long run, it is clear that this calculated change is a direct result of the lesser role his teammates have taken so far this season -- with the early injury suffered by star signing Dembele and Luis Suarez's ongoing injury worries being contributing factors.

Our stat-filled show analysing Messi's performance is available here. We are very grateful for the very positive feedback received so far. Don't miss it!

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