Opinion – Barcelona The opinion of Hugo Cerezo
Lionel Messi in his current state is nothing like the player who faced and lost to Juventus two months ago. At that point, Barcelona were in crisis and outside the European spots in LaLiga Santander after losing to Cadiz, while they also gave up first spot in their group to Cristiano Ronaldo and co. That loss is why they have to face Paris Saint-Germain in the next round. Messi, still in the middle of the storm from last summer, couldn’t see the light and was playing alongside teammates who were out of form. Ronald Koeman‘s plan wasn’t working and Messi had scored just seven goals in 14 matches. That’s not a bad tally, but five of them were penalties. It looked like the season was a lost cause as Barcelona dropped points against strong sides like Sevilla, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid and lost to weaker sides such as Getafe, Cadiz and Alaves.
Since that 3-0 loss to Juventus, though, things have gone better for Barcelona. The most important thing is that Messi is smiling again. Barcelona have 14 wins from their past 18 matches, with two draws and just two losses – the Supercopa de Espana final and the Sevilla Copa del Rey first leg. In LaLiga Santander, they’ve taken 32 points from the last 36 available and Messi has scored 12 in his past 14 outings. He’s pushing to win the Pichichi again after scoring goals of all kinds, from freekicks to left-footed blasts to intelligent finishes. He’s no longer only scoring penalties.
Things are still happening with Messi off the pitch. He was seen shaking his head after watching the draw with Eibar from the stands, he had his interview with Jordi Evole, he had an injury, he got sent off against Athletic Club, he has been linked with Paris Saint-Germain and El Mundo published the details of his contract. Barcelona also still lack a president and Messi is keeping his cards close to his chest with regards to his future.
It’ll still be difficult for Barcelona to win silverware this season, but Messi is a different player to what he was a couple of months ago. There has been a change with the forward, just as there has been with the whole team. Messi isn’t looking at the floor any more. Now, he is smiling even during tough times… and they don’t come much tougher than PSG.