He may not be as prolific as previous seasons and his direct free-kicks no longer scare the life out of an opponent, but Lionel Messi is still ‘the man.’
A record-breaking 644th goal for Barcelona saw him set a new benchmark for goals scored with one club, and it’s hard to see how that record will ever be broken again.
There aren’t too many one club men these days, and those that are certainly don’t score with the incredible regularity that the Argentinian has.
The finish against Valladolid was as emphatic as any that he’s scored before and was hit as if to say to the critics, ‘take that.’
Once again this season Messi has been written off as being past it and no longer needed. Once again he continues to answer the critics in the best possible way.
To beat Messi’s 644 goal record, someone will have to score an average of 43 goals a season for 15 years....for one club.— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) December 22, 2020
His goal against La Pucela was made possible by the invention of Pedri, a player who’s looked as though he’s been at the club for years.
Had you not been aware, you’d swear that this kid was schooled in La Masia, such is the adroitness with which he’s taken to the task in hand.
Messi knows a player when he sees one, and it’s noticeable how often he’s seeking to find Pedri now when in possession - 12 times against Valencia - something reciprocated by the youngster - 10 times against Valladolid.
It’s a relationship that’s emerging and could potentially be one of the keys to hanging onto Messi past next summer.
Clearly, Barça are a team in transition and it may be a couple more years before they’re back to anywhere approaching their best.
If Messi can see the green shoots of recovery, however, and if there’s something to hold onto and believe that he can help the club do it all over again, that should be enough of a motivating factor.
Lest we forget that Ansu Fati is still to return. If there was a way of convincing Ronald Koeman to play Riqui Puig too, that’s three youngsters that talk Messi’s language and who should be the bedrock of the team for years to come.
For now at least, let’s just enjoy the telepathy of two players at opposite ends of a football players age range but who are so totally in simpatico that it renders any debate about whether they can play together moribund.