Football is a team game, and perhaps more so at Barcelona than at any other team. If one member of the eleven isn’t at their best, then the tiki-taka machine tends to grind to a halt – but sometimes, football matches are won by individual brilliance. A touch of magic if you will. And curiously enough, we, as Barcelona fans, are also treated to a number of these individual performances per season. Standout games, from standout players; standout performances that won crucial points as the season progressed.
Maybe it’s testament to the outstanding players we have at our disposal, or maybe it’s testament to the system, which focuses on the collective, but allows a determined individual to shine without it being detrimental to the team. After all, sometimes it’s that touch of magic that makes the difference – here are the nominees for Best Individual Performance of the Season.
Despite Deportivo’s recent struggles, a trip to the Riazor remains a daunting prospect for most of La Liga – even for Barcelona, who had just returned from an international break. As usual, the pre-match talk surrounded the so-called "FIFA Virus" and whether or not it would affect the Blaugrana. For 25 minutes, it appeared as though it wouldn’t; Barcelona raced into an early 3-0 lead, two of which were assisted with surgical precision by Cesc Fàbregas. Cesc went on to register another assist before half-time in an eventual 5-4 win for the visitors – although the final scoreline may have been very different indeed without his contributions.
And just as Cesc Fàbregas dominated the midfield in that match, Lionel Messi (who else?) lead the attack, scoring a sensational hat-trick to secure the spoils. In his last appearance for the Blaugrana, Messi had scored a fantastic brace against Real Madrid – and some wondered how the Argentine superstar could build on such an impressive performance, but in spite of that pressure, Messi delivered; playing a part in four of the five Barça goals.
Lionel Messi had just returned from international duty, where he played the full 90 minutes in a 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia, but he showed no signs in fatigue in this match, securing Barcelona’s 11th win in 12 games with yet another superb brace. After watching opener get cancelled out by Paco Montanes, Messi went into overdrive, dancing past the Zaragoza defense to create Alex Song’s first-ever goal for the club – before scoring another goal of his own in the second-half, this time from long-range.
Barcelona headed into this tricky away tie with Levante knowing that a victory would move the Blaugrana eleven points clear of arch-rivals Real Madrid, who had slipped to their third La Liga defeat of the season one night previously against Real Betis. Sitting in fourth place after the opening twelve matches of the season, Levante had lost just once at home all season – but that was all about to change, thanks to this virtuoso performance from midfield magician, Andrés Iniesta. Starting on the left-hand side of the Blaugrana attack, Iniesta tore the Levante defense to shreds time and time again over the course of the 90 minutes, scoring one goal and setting up the other three in a comfortable 4-0 win for Tito Vilanova’s side.
This match may have been sandwiched in between two tough Copa del Rey matches against Malaga at La Rosaleda, and Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, but it still got Lionel Messi’s full attention. Already in the lead in the race for the Pichichi, Messi secured his status as football’s deadliest finisher with an incredible four-goal haul against a hapless Osasuna defence who simply had no answer to the Argentine’s calm demeanour in front of goal.
Trailing by two goals after a disastrous first-leg at the San Siro, Barcelona needed a miracle at the Camp Nou if they were to progress to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals at the expense of AC Milan. Or, as it turned out, Barcelona needed Lionel Messi. With two goals in the opening half, Lionel Messi single-handedly overturned that two-goal deficit and provided the Blaugrana with the belief they needed to reach the last eight, dismissing the notion that he cannot perform against Italian sides in the process.
Xavi Hernández vs AC Milan – 12th March 2013 (nominated by Arron Duckling)
Lionel Messi made the difference on the score-sheet, but Barcelona’s success on that night was as much down to the irresistible form of Xavi Hernández as it was to Messi’s goals. Despite missing the previous two matches through injury, Xavi was restored to the starting line-up against the Italians, and pulled the strings from midfield, setting up Messi’s opener, and David Villa’s goal, which ultimately secured Barça’s passage to the quarter finals.
After a difficult 2-2 draw at the Parc des Princes against Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona returned to La Liga action at the Camp Nou against Real Mallorca – without the injured Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano. However, in spite of the changes made by Tito Vilanova, the Blaugrana stormed to victory in one of their best performances of the season – spearheaded by Cesc Fàbregas, who scored his first-ever career hat-trick against one of the league’s worst defences.
Alexis Sánchez vs Real Mallorca – 6th April 2013 (nominated by Bostjan Cernensek)
However, it wasn’t just Cesc Fàbregas who stole the show against Real Mallorca; Alexis Sánchez grabbed his share of the headlines with arguably his best-ever performance for the Blaugrana. Combining with Fàbregas to devastating effect, Alexis scored a brace, and registered two assists in this Manita victory, prompting a brilliant run of form for the Chilean, who finished the season with six goals and five assists in his last eight La Liga appearances.
Note: This poll will close in one week's time (from date of publish) at which the point the winner will be revealed