Friday 23 February 2018

10 reasons why Lionel Messi is in decline

Charlie Eccleshare

A tongue-in-cheek look at why Lionel Messi might be at the ridiculously high level of performance he once was.

His goalscoring rate now is borderline pathetic

Lionel Messi has only scored a paltry 37 goals in 34 games for Barcelona this season, at an average of 1.08 goals per game. The Messi of 2011-13 would spit on such a record. In the 2011-12 season, the forward scored 56 goals in 47 matches (1.19 goals per game), before banging in a staggering 72 goals in 50 matches in 2012-13 – a scoring rate of 1.35 goals per game.

He’s not as quick as he once was

Even the great man himself has been affected by age, and it means we’ll probably never see the likes of this goal anymore. Incidentally look at Eidur Gudjohnsen reaction below as the ball goes in – it’s absolutely sublime.

It’s four years since Barca won the Champions League

After picking up the trophy three times in six seasons between 2006 and 2011, Barca have now gone four years without winning Europe’s premier club competition.

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During that period, Messi has endured frustratingly quiet nights in crunch games, such as in both legs of last season’s defeat to Atlético Madrid, and even worse in the away leg at Bayern Munich in April 2013 when Barca were hammered 4-0.

He doesn’t inspire the team to trophies anymore

What always set Messi apart from his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo was that the Argentine’s brilliance would always end up in silverware come what May, while CR7 would often end the campaign pouting and empty handed.

Last season though it was Ronaldo who picked up the Champions League and Copa del Rey, while Messi and co had to lick their wounds at a trophyless season.

He’s never done it on a rainy night in Stoke

Literally not once. And worse still, he’s never even tried. Yes, he’s won everything there is to win in club football, and has shattered numerous records along the way, but scoring, or indeed playing, at the Britannia Stadium is a glaring omission from his CV.

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Messi at the World Cup was often painful viewing

After an excellent group stage in which he plundered four goals in three games, Messi’s form tailed off in the knockout stages, and by the semi-final and final, he looked a pale shadow of his former self. The chance he missed in the final to put Argentina ahead against Germany will haunt him, and was one he would usually bury with the minimum of fuss.

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A dejected Lionel Messi trudges off the pitch after his Argentina side are defeated by Germany in the World Cup final. Photo: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

The Ballon d’Ors have dried up

After being crowned the world’s best player for four years running between 2009-12, Messi has had to look on enviously during the last two years as Ronaldo has twice picked up the award. What’s the point in scoring 40 odd goals in a year if it doesn’t even get you the accolade of best player in the world?

Roy Hodgson doesn’t rate him

The England manager could find no place for Messi when he voted for his three nominees for the Ballon d’Or award. It was one thing losing out to Ronaldo in the overall vote, but being overlooked by Woy must have really stung. Javier Mascherano was after all his number one pick.

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Roy Hodgson

His choice of suit is getting even more abysmal

We thought he’d reached the nadir in 2014 when he turned up to the Ballon d’Or ceremony in a velvety red number, but Messi showed us he had even worse gear in his locker at this year’s event.

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There simply was, and still is, no excuse for the spangly purple number he wore, and in doing so he did something remarkable: made Ronaldo look humble and understated by comparison.

He’s losing the PR battle

For years the narrative was that Ronaldo was a petulant brat, whereas Messi was a grounded team player. Over the last few years though the public perception has started to change, with stories emerging of Messi running the dressing room and forbidding managers from substituting him, even if it was just to give him a rest.

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Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring a goal against Schalke 04 during their Champions League Round of 16 first leg soccer match in Gelsenkirchen

The situation has reached a crisis point this season, with persistent rumours of a fall-out with manager Luis Enrique, and rumours that the Argentine wants to leave and join Chelsea. By contrast Ronaldo is now seen as a supremely motivated and dedicated machine, who has stopped at nothing to improve as a player and ensure Real are no longer put in the shade by their great rivals.

Telegraph.co.uk

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