Leo Messi is still the best player in the world, but he has not been as good in recent years as he was when Pep Guardiola was his coach, Erik ten Hag said in quotes carried by Goal.com.
The Ajax coach is someone whose word should be taken seriously, and he may have a point.
Of course Messi’s level has probably dropped since then, but it’s a very hard problem to unpick. The entire team has been worse, which doesn’t help. On the other hand, it’s also meant more focus on the Argentine genius to win games single-handedly, giving him more chances to shine than in Pep’s more unified system.
“Messi was one of the leaders, but he also worked for the team and excelled as a result. He has never been as good as under Guardiola,” Ten Hag is quoted as saying.
“Barcelona has not won much in European terms in recent years either,” he went on.
“Messi still excels, but now also occasionally goes through the lower limit. It was never like that under Guardiola.”
It’s hard to disagree that the finest Messi moments were back then when Pep had the whole team firing, his body was younger and fresher and he had a great structure
But can one put that all on Pep’s influence? The departure of players like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Dani Alves must also be recognised as a massive contributing factor.