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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What would Barca do without Messi?


Equaling Spanish football record of 48 goals in a season is the latest of many feathers that Barcelona’s mercurial and prodigious livewire, Lionel Andrés "Leo" Messi , has added to his cap. Who needs introduction on who this man is?

The highly creative and skilled former Club Atlético Newell's Old Boys forward cum winger joined the Blaugrana as a 13-year-old growth hormone deficient teenager but has since grown to become the hottest property available in the football market today.

Messi made his first league debut against RCD Espanyol on 16 October 2004 (at 17 years and 114 days), making him the third-youngest player ever to play for Barcelona and youngest club player who played in La Liga. His record was however broken by teammate Bojan Krkic three years later in September 2007.

But this little record for the little man only served to usher in a whole lot more to come. The media has rightfully been singing, writing, tweeting, facebooking and talking about the Argentine international, who also holds a Spanish citizenship, that it feels like he’s been playing football for the last 20 years.

But Messi is not just about playing and winning games. He breaks records. He helps his team break records. In the 2006-07 season, Messi scored a hat-trick to earn 10-man Barcelona a 3–3 draw against perennial rivals Real Madrid in the El Clasico derby. With this, he became the first player since Real Madrid’s  Iván Zamorano (1994–95) to score a hat-trick in El Clásico. He remains the youngest player ever to have scored in this fixture.

Messiah - on top of the world
In the 2008-2009 season, the 23-year-old scored 38 goals in all competitions to help 20-time La Liga champions win an unprecedented treble. In that season, Messi scored one of the four goals that helped Barca beat Athletic Bilbao 4-1 in the Copa del Rey final. 14 days later after the Copa del Rey final, he was at it again, scoring in the 70th minute against Manchester United in the Champions League final at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy to give his team a 2-0 win after Eto’o had punished the English giants just 10 minutes into the game.

 In December last year, Messi was part of the Barcelona team that set a new world record for most passes in a football match when he scored a brace to help his team thrash Real Sociedad 5-0. The La Liga giants strung together an extraordinary 938 passes, with passmaster Xavi  Hernandez responsible for 120 of those passes in spite of being substituted in the 70th minute.

Messi’s hat-trick against Club Atletico de Madrid on February 5 this year not only gave his club a 3-0 victory but put Barca into the record books again, as Pep Guardiola’s team set a Liga record of 16 consecutive victories .

He has been named La Liga player of the year and Ballon d’Or winner for the last two seasons and it doesn’t look like he’s at any risk of losing the accolades this year. According to Opta Joe, Lionel is also the top scorer in all three competitions Barcelona are currently involved in.

As you read, you realize that Messi is fully part and parcel of the much talked about Catalunyian domination in both the Spanish Primera Liga and the Champions league. It is almost impossible to write everything that the Rosario-born Argentine has achieved or is yet to achieve in his record-shattering career.

While Barca’s record-breaking achievements cannot be attributed to one man – unless you naively want to forget the telepathic understanding and superb tiki-taka that purveyors of the perfect passing game,  Xavi Hernandez and Andrés Iniesta Lujan, bring to Barca – Messi’s importance to Barca is infinite.

The statistics so far point out that he has broken his record of goals scored in a single season for Barcelona, he is on the brink of breaking a 60 year-old Spanish scoring record, and another goalscoring feat may have shifted into his crosshairs. Seven games to play in La Liga, one in the Copa del Rey final against Madrid, and at least two in the Champions League.

Who can stop Messi?!!

OPtaJoe - 14 - It is now over 14 hours of football for club and country without a goal for Fernando Torres. Scuff.