This past weekend, Barcelona played their third match against a defensively efficient Athletic Bilbao, and, after a rather poor performance by the blaugrana, finally managed to defeat Valverde's men. Unfortunately, it was not Suarez's volleyed goal from an incredible Jordi Alba cross, or the unexpected yet powerful performance by Thomas Vermaelen that made the headlines; the only news that was deemed worthy of a front page cover was another penalty kick debacle by Lionel Messi.
It was late into the first half, the 31st minute to be exact, when Messi stepped up to the spot after Luis Suarez was awarded a controversial penalty just inside the 18-yard box. The low, weak, and driven ball was shot towards the left post, but immediately pounced upon and shoved out of play by Gorka Iraizoz. The visibly frustrated Argentine was castrated by both fans and the media for yet another poor penalty shot. And now we MUST ask ourselves one simple question: should Messi continue to be the go-to player for penalty kicks?
According to information provided by Sportsmatrix, the answer may be a bit surprising to those that believe it's time for Neymar or Suarez to step up. Even though Messi's success rate currently sits at 82.2%, his teammates only fared marginally better (Neymar: 84%, Suarez: 85.2%). However, the number of penalties Messi has scored (72) is still impressive, though a bit closer to human than supernatural.
For some, the minute difference between the three players is more than enough cause to make a change, but, as Xoel Cardenas mentioned in his first Barça podcast, who is going to tell the world's best player to step away from the penalty spot? Let's be utterly honest, no one, not Luis Enrique nor Josep Maria Bartomeu, is going to take that risk with their star player.
Messi's poor penalty kicks, though disappointing, are not a constant mistake and surely not enough to merit a change, especially after all he has accomplished for the club. For Leo, it's simply a matter of practice to increase his confidence and perfect his shot. It may be nerve-wrecking to watch him take, and, in some instances, spoil the gifts bestowed upon the team by the soccer gods, but he is, nonetheless, la Pulga. He's the fast paced, quick dribbling, sharp shooting forward whose "Magisterial!" performances have mesmerized cules for over a decade.
So let's give our little Argentine the benefit of the doubt and understand that, no matter what his sins are on the pitch, he will always give it all for the club.