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Lionel Messi still the key to Barcelona’s success

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The 31-year-old has shown no signs of slowing down

Sevilla FC v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Despite some outstanding performances this season, public opinion on Lionel Messi is more divided than ever. While Luka Modric won the FIFA Men’s Player of the Year Award for 2018 with 29.05% of the vote, Messi amassed only 9.81%, landing him in fifth place behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Mohamed Salah and Kylian Mbappe. The Ballon d’ Or awards followed a strikingly similar plot, with Messi finishing yet again in fifth place in the men’s category behind Modric, Ronaldo, Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe. To many, such occurrences seem bizarre given Messi’s achievements this season, most recently his 50th career hat-trick against Sevilla.

Despite such controversial results, Messi’s status as Barca’s talisman remains intact as he looks to hoist Barca to La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League victories. Let’s take a look at the Argentine’s performances for the season thus far in order to get a better idea of the impact that he may have on the rest of Barca’s season, and whether or not age may yet be a factor when it comes to the Barca captain’s positive impact on his squad.

Starting with La Liga, Messi has proved as formidable as ever, scoring 25 goals and grabbing 13 assists in just 24 matches, thus topping the Liga scoring charts and far exceeding second-placed Suarez’s 16 goals. He also impressively tops the list of most assists.

Sevilla FC v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Looking more closely at the performances that earned him such an impressive record of results, it is evident that Messi proves just as clinical against top opposition as he is when facing the league’s minnows. He netted a total of three goals against Valencia in both fixtures this season, scored four in total against Sevilla including his most recent hat-trick, and grabbed an assist in the bitter 1-1 draw with Atletico earlier in the season. He also grabbed braces against high-flying Alaves and local rivals Espanyol. Such results prove Messi’s consistency week in and week out, as well as his ability to perform against any opponent regardless of calibre.

What makes his achievements thus far this season even more admirable is the fact that he maintained his quality despite suffering from a forearm fracture that saw him left out of the squad for the games against Real Madrid and Rayo Vallecano. Clearly, no mountain is too steep for Barca’s number 10 to climb.

Shifting focus to the European stage, the Blaugranes found themselves in a gruelling Champions League Group B draw alongside Italian giants Inter Milan, Premier League elites Tottenham Hotspur, and current Dutch Eredivisie champions PSV Eindhoven.

FC Barcelona v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Group B Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Such tough competition did not phase the Blaugranes in the slightest, as they demolished their opponents on their way to winning the group with an impressive 16 points and wrapping up the group stage undefeated. On the way to achieving such excellent results, club captain Messi certainly played his part, slotting away five goals in just four matches. Once again, the impressiveness of such results is only elevated considering that the Argentine was sidelined during both matches against Inter due to his aforementioned forearm fracture. While Barca’s away match against Lyon in the round of 16 remained goalless, it would certainly be expected for Messi to execute yet another impressive performance in order to assist the Blaugranes to overcome their latest opponents.

While form is only a temporary attribute, Lionel Messi has proven that he still has the match consistency, energy and influence on his teammates to take Barca forward in the long term. More importantly, he is a natural leader and effective club captain who also has the strong mentality needed to recover from a worrisome injury in an effort to bounce back and perform for his team. Clearly, age is but a number when it comes to this Barcelona icon, and any critics of Lionel Messi should surely be wary when their side is set to face his formidable Barca team.