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Are Lionel Messi, Neymar, and Luis Suarez's Insistence on Playing Partially to Blame for Barcelona Slump?

The MSN trio hasn't rested much this season. Were they foolhardy?

David Ramos/Getty Images

Lesson learned for next season?

Barcelona are in a slump that seemed inconceivable even a month ago. Sure, some of it is down to a horrible schedule of games that included an international break, a Clasico against Real Madrid, a trip to Anoeta against Real Sociedad, and two Atletico Madrid games squeezed in.

But the team has been very far from its standard and there's no two ways about it. A physical collapse has finally hit the team after playing so many games one after the other with little rest. Of course, the added pressure of playing the European Super Cup, the Spanish Super Cup, and especially the Club World Cup - all of which neither Real nor Atletico had to play - has pushed the team to its limit.

But it's also no secret that Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, and Neymar do not like missing even a single minute of football. It's been very rare that Luis Enrique has rested them purely to rest them. They were either injured, suspended, or playing - and playing the full 90, always.

Luis Enrique may have preferred to have rotated them more, and in fact, he did during the first half of his first season until he put Messi and Neymar in for only a half and the team lost. The players themselves didn't like that at all, and keeping your stars happy is one of the most important things for any coach.

After that, he seemed to have learned his lesson and played all three with little rest, and the team won the treble.

The problem here is that the lack of rotation in the second half of the season was probably possible because there was more rotation in the first half of the season, and particularly because Luis Suarez didn't even play the first half of the season due to a ban. Not only that, but Suarez didn't travel to play with official matches with Uruguay due to a ban with his national team.

Now, Messi did get some "rest" while he was out for two months this season with an injury, but apart from that, the team has had very little rotation.

The first half of this season was brilliant but put heavy tolls on all players. Some of that was beyond Lucho or any of the trio's control. The team lost Pedro and Xavi in the offseason and couldn't replace them due to a transfer ban. Rafinha received a long-term injury. Certain players underperformed and weren't trusted to play big roles in the rotation, such as Adriano. The only positive was Sergi Roberto.

But the question remains, would MSN be more effective over the past few weeks if they had allowed Luis Enrique greater freedom to rotate them without becoming unsettled? And is that a lesson learned for next season?

Or is that criticism revisionist and opportunist - especially considering how much MSN and especially M have done for the club?

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