He (Messi) started off as a teenage sensation, a winger in Barcelona youth team and a striker leading Argentina youth team to victory in 2005 under 20 world cup winning the tournament’ golden ball as the player of the tournament and the top scorer.
After the success of the youth world cup, he became a main fixture in a star studded Barcelona first team with players like Samuel Eto, Xavi, Iniesta and Ronaldinho. What was always clear is his astounding and often mesmerizing qualities.
For many years, over more than a decade for club and country, he operated either as a false nine or an all out striker, stuck to the final third, terrorizing defenses, scoring lots of goals and winning matches on the way to an unprecedented six(6) Ballon D’ors.
Recently, over the past couple of years, Lioenel Messi has taken more of a playmaking free role whereby he drops deep to carry possession, serving as the link between the midfield and attackers. Yes change is often constant in life, Messi’s role may have changed but has it affected his goal to game ratio? Hardly.
Again, the change in his on field role may have been occasioned or a product of the change in his playing pattern. Many Years ago, a fleet footed, dazzling Messi terrified defenses at will with awesome pace, dribbles and clinical finishes as he goes on many individual “maradona-esque” runs.
These days, he looks to play more through balls, create more opportunities for his team mates as he plays more for the team. While this article is not about Messi’ style of play,( or is it?) it is however about the change he has come to embrace and why his club, Barcelona and their fans should come to terms with and embrace the reality of the change which has caught up with their erstwhile superhuman superstar.
Mercurial as he is, let it be known that like all other players, Messi is just human and age may just be catching up with him and more importantly, in a team, he is just one player. Granted, he so often makes the difference in a game, scoring crucial games and deciding matches with just a moment of magic.
Though it is often said by football fans that Barcelona is Messi and Messi is Barcelona; and that is a huge honor. When we take account of the many great names to have worn the Barcelona shirt; players like Cryuff, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Ronaldo De Lima, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, etc. that Messi is seen by many as the face of a football club like barca, tells a lot about how consistent he has been over the years and the telling contribution to the overall success of the club.
Yet all good things must come to an end and there was an air of inevitability in the announcement on August 25,200 of his intention to leave Barcelona and seek new pastures for the first time in his career. Protests by fans, calls for resignations of the club president, already the coach Quique Sentien has already by sacked and a host of players have been pointed to the exit door.
And one begins to wonder if all the fuss about Messi leaving necessary? Maybe it’s shameful the manner of his proposed exit after the debacle of a humbling 8-2 trouncing by eventual Uefa champions League winners Bayern Munich; but that has been coming and for some reason, the Barca hierarchy has held back from making the necessary changes.
First it was Roma, then Liverpool, and Bayern; a series of bottling up performances at the crucial semi final of the UCL. Alas, Barcelona has seen great players go; xavi, iniesta, Ronaldinho in recent times, some may argue they are not as decisive as Messi, but that’s just to show that though a team can be built around a player, no one player can make a team. Not even a genius like Messi.
It is time for the Barcelona hierarchy and fans to realize what Messi himself has come to see which may have enforced his change in style; – that age and time has caught up with the “immortal” and its best for both to path ways.
Celebrate the times and successes and prepare the best send forth (something they have never managed to do) for a true football great – one of their own making; and by so doing, draw the curtain on the glorious era of Messi in Barcelona history so they can look forward to the obvious task of rebuilding with the optimism and peace it requires.