Did Barcelona Rely Too Much on Lionel Messi?

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 05: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona duels for the ball with Raul Baena of RCD Espanyol (L) and Joan Verdu of RCD Espanyol (C) during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on May 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Lionel Messi's last season at Barcelona was astounding, and not just because he scored a world-record 73 goals. He also assisted others 29 times, tied with Franck Ribery for best in Europe. The most telling stat is his goal contribution percentage - that is, how many of Barcelona's 190 goals were either scored or assisted by Messi? The answer: a whopping 54%.

How does this compare to others? Well, the often-called one-man show of Robin van Persie at Arsenal was at 49%, while Klaas Jan-Huntelaar of Schalke 04 contributed in 48.7%. Further down the line, Zlatan Ibrahimovic contributed in 45% of Milan's goals, while Cristiano Ronaldo came in at 43% for Real Madrid.

So the question is: was FC Barcelona just too reliant on the Argentine #10?

Tellingly, of those. only the lowest percentage player, Ronaldo, won a league or European championship last season. The truth was that Ronaldo had plenty of support in Mesut Ozil, Angel Di Maria, Kaka, Karim Benzema, and Gonzalo Higuain to ease his burden.

On the other hand, Messi's supporting cast suffered from injury (David Villa, Ibrahim Afellay), inconsistency (Cesc Fabregas), or both (Pedro). Even his most reliable partners had spells of frustrating injuries - Alexis Sanchez, Andres Iniesta, and Xavi all missed time.

Some have suggested the team became predictable, as the players looked to Messi more and more in any tight situation. Surely, the team missed the crucial scoring of Pedro and the reliable goals from Villa.

But can you blame Barca for looking to their genius in times of need? In the previous season, which included a La Liga and Champions League double, Messi participated in 51% of the goals Barca netted. A little less, but still a hefty amount.

Maybe the team lacked the experienced presence of someone like Villa at crucial moments. In some of Barcelona's most important games, youngsters Cristian Tello (in a league loss vs. Real Madrid) and Isaac Cuenca (in an aggregate loss vs. Chelsea) started and were substituted after some less-than-stellar performances.

But maybe the culprit is elsewhere. Maybe it's the fact that Barcelona gave up 12 more goals total this year than last, including 8 in the league.

If that is the case, then Barcelona is very right to attempt to restock the backline, as it has already done with Jordi Alba and is reportedly going to continue to do.

If Messi can continue his blistering form, while other players such as Villa can have good seasons, the attack will definitely be the world's best. At the same time, a more consistent defense will remain critical if Barca is to reclaim La Liga or the Champions League.

The following are the goals, assists, and contribution of Europe's best players.

Goals

Messi - 73 goals 29 assists

C. Ronaldo - 60 gls 15 ast

Huntelaar - 48 goals 8 ast

Gomez - 41 gls 7 ast

Van Persie - 37 gls 9 ast

Ibrahimovic - 35 gls 10 ast

Assists

Messi - 29 ast 73 gls

Ribery - 29 ast 17 gls

Ozil - 24 ast 7 goals

Contribution to total amount of team goals

Messi - 54% of Barcelona goals

Van Persie - 49% of Arsenal gls

Huntelaar - 48.7% of Schalke gls

Ibrahimovic - 45% of Milan gls

Ronaldo - 43% of R. Madrid gls

Gomez - 40% of Bayern gls

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