As he ducks off for a well-deserved break, Lionel Messi will look back on what he will see as a disappointing season. Not on a personal level as the Argentine scored an amazing 82 goals in 69 games for club and country but for Messi not winning La Liga or the Champions League will overshadow that feat. Watching Real Madrid take the Spanish title and Chelsea the European crown will leave a bitter taste in the young forward’s mouth. Add in the fact that Pep Guardiola has left and one can really understand his disappointment.
Yet, this has been his best season on a personal level. He sealed a third Ballon d'Or, whilst his club still won four trophies, in the Copa Del Rey, Spanish and European Super Cups and the World Club Cup for Barca this season. The worst part for his opponents is that they say there is a lot more to come.
A look at his stats for the season will cause readers to scratch their heads in wonder. At club level, the 24-year-old managed 50 League goals, 14 Champions League goals, three goals in the Copa Del Rey, two World Club Cup strikes, three in the European Super Cup and one in the Supercopa Espana. A further nine for Argentina and it is no wonder Messi is always smiling.
Unfortunately you can’t talk about Messi without bringing up another name. Say Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo pops straight into the conversation. It seems that it is impossible to like both and enjoy the fact that we are seeing two of the best players in the world who are just about to reach their peak. Not since the 1960s when the world was divided on who was the better Beatle, John or Paul, has so much debate been caused by two individuals.
Recently Real Madrid defender Marcelo described Messi as the best player in the world and the floodgates opened. Marcelo claimed his words had been manipulated and it was said that Ronaldo was upset which in turn upset Marcelo which in turn saw Ronaldo phone Marcelo to say that everything was ok. At the end of the day the only worthwhile lesson to be taken out of all this is that it shows how sensitive people are to the argument.
Ronaldo and Messi are very different but do have some similarities. Both have been followed by the forever phrase of not being able to do it against XYZ or the big stage. Recently in New Jersey, Messi scored a hat trick for Argentina against Brazil. They were his final goals before heading off on holidays and, incredible as they were, he was still greeted with reasons why they weren’t. The chief argument was that Brazil had gone with the Under-23 Olympic side, a weakened line-up. But does that matter? It seems that even when he defies his critics they still come up with more reasons to doubt him.
Messi takes these negative comments with his traditional smile. He seems to be made of Teflon, he just lets everything slide off and nothing seems to bother the youngster. He has had a few moments when it looks to be getting to him but he just pops up and scores and then everything is back to normal.
Next year will be a big year for the Argentine. Whilst Messi was on the scene before Pep, the former midfielder is credited with developing the player into a true great. How Messi will do without his mentor remains to be seen – Barca will be quick to point out that he enjoys a solid relationship with Tito Vilanova and should have no problems. Yet, there is more hope on the horizon for defenders. Next season Messi may be a little distracted by off the field issues. Asked about if his girlfriend was pregnant, Messi avoided giving an answer. Then against Ecuador after scoring, Messi ended weeks of speculation by placing the ball under his shirt. As is typical fashion when it comes to Messi and, as we are likely to see next term regardless of outside views, he lets the ball do his talking.