Has Messi’s Goal-Scoring Obsession Hurt Rather Than Helped?

FC Barcelona v FC Spartak Moscow - UEFA Champions League

It was the cruelest of blows. Lionel Messi’s recent muscle injury has left Barcelona hamstrung at the worst possible time and seemingly contributed to the Catalans downfall in the Champions League semi-finals after a half-fit Leo failed to help his team in the Blaugrana’s brutal battering at Bayern Munich on Tuesday night. It looked like extremely bad luck, yet it could almost certainly have been avoided.

Just four days prior to starting against Celta, Messi was struggling for breath in La Paz in a World Cup qualifier for Argentina against Bolivia. He was noticeably in severe difficulty during that match, like many of his team-mates, and was ill during the half-time interval. Surely it is no coincidence, then, that he was injured just a week later, along with Javier Mascherano (who also started for Argentina in La Paz) in the Champions League quarter-final first leg at Paris Saint-Germain. Records are all well and good, but with the Champions League in play, why didn’t prudence prevail?

Messi, of course, always wants to play. Sometimes, as on Tuesday, he should probably be more honest with himself, hold his hands up and admit he is not in the optimum condition. So often, however, he has starred for Barcelona when half-fit, and against PSG in the second leg earlier this month he emerged from the bench to save his side when they badly needed inspiration and, more importantly, a goal.

This time last year, Messi was chasing Gerd Muller’s mark of 67 goals in a single season and the Argentine eventually overhauled the German great in early May. By that time, however, he had looked below his best in the home loss to Real Madrid (which saw the Catalans wave goodbye to La Liga), and in the two semi-final matches versus Chelsea. The 25-year-old was ineffective at Stamford Bridge and then imprecise at Camp Nou, missing a penalty in the 2-2 draw which saw the Blaugrana beaten by Roberto Di Matteo’s men.

This term, something similar has happened. Messi hit the heights in the build-up to the Ballon d’Or and smashed another magical Muller mark as he hit 91 goals in 2012 for club and country to beat the Bayern legend’s 85 strikes from 1972. But none of that was important, of course. Not for Leo, nor for Barcelona. So why the obsession with such records? Why not rest your star man, your go-to guy, your commander-in-chief, for the important tests ahead?

So Barca, instead of chasing rainbows, should have focused on their bread and butter, put their foot down – and given Messi a rest. Because La Liga, after all, was won a long, long time ago.

You can read Ben Hayward’s entire article here on goal.com

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