Saturday 24 March 2018

Amid worst run in six years, should Lionel Messi consider a Barcelona exit?

Barcelona's Lionel Messi
Barcelona's Lionel Messi

James Mariner

No Messi, no party. Barcelona tumbled out of Europe in scenes that were mirrored by another poor showing from Lionel Messi.

For all Neymar’s ball skills and Luis Suarez’s bullishness, it is usually Messi who dictates whether or not Barca perform, and his poor showing at the Vicente Calderon represented a blank for a Barcelona side.

The 28-year-old’s fifth club match without a goal – still remaining stuck on 499 career strikes - represented his worst run for the Catalan side in six years, with his last goal coming a month ago in the previous Champions League round against Arsenal.

An upturn in form last year enabled Messi to reclaim the Ballon d’Or from Cristiano Ronaldo but, as the Portuguese continues his fine form ahead of the Euros and with the business end of the season in sight, Messi appears to be badly waning. Is it time to move on? A move to reunite with former coach Pep Guardiola at a revived Manchester City could reinvigorate Messi’s career.

One win in five matches – their own worst run in 24 months - and losing three of their last four has seen Barcelona exit Europe and allow the Madrid sides back into a La Liga title race they appeared to be coasting home in.

The curse of the Champions League also hit the Catalan crumblers in Madrid, Barcelona the latest club to fail to defend their crown since the competition was rebranded. Milan, in 1990 and the old days of the plain European Cup, have another year to revel in their status as the last successful defenders of the title.

Independent News Service

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