Lionel Messi: 5 Areas in Which the Barcelona Superstar Can Still Improve
Being asked to find ways in which to make Lionel Messi better at football is a bit like working out how to make Usain Bolt run faster or Spinal Tap funnier.
In theory it is possible, but in practice it is hard to identify specific areas in which to make it happen.
But just as the Olympic motto celebrate the continuous human quest to go faster, higher and stronger, so the objective for Messi is to be ever dribblier, goalier and tiki-takaier.
Here are five ways the three-time World Player of the Year can still improve his game.
Obviously this entry carries the rather significant caveat that Messi scored a header in one of the biggest matches of his career—the 2009 Champions League final.
Nevertheless, Messi is not exactly renowned for his aerial ability. He even once resorted to punching the ball past the keeper instead of heading it, Maradona-style. The goal, in a derby match against Espanyol in 2007, stood.
It may seem harsh to accuse a player as diminutive as Messi for not scoring his fair share of headers, but it is an area in which he could improve. Besides, Michael Owen manages to do just that in his peak years, and he is only four centimeters taller than Messi.
Another reason why Messi does not score more headers is that Barcelona will rarely play with them in mind.
The entire squad is so supremely efficient at zipping the ball to each other's feet—even inside a congested penalty area—that the call for aerial assaults are relatively few and far between. It is one of the, admittedly, many reasons why Zlatan Ibrahimovic struggled during his year at the club.
And, even if that were the case, as the team's No.10, Messi is less likely to be in wide areas to deliver crosses, but on the rare occasions he is, there is room for improvement.
As much as Barcelona's supreme technical ability on the ball is one of their hallmarks, they are also notorious for their obsessive and immediate pressing of the opposition whenever they lose the ball.
While Messi can hardly be described as lazy in that regard, he is the offensive player in the team who is perhaps least likely to be seen dispossessing an opponent.
In Sunday's 5-1 win over Real Sociedad, for example, he made two attempts at tackles in 90 minutes. One of them was successful; the other was a foul. Still, he did score twice in that game, so not all bad.
In spite of the previous slide, Messi can hardly be criticised for a lack of effort.
Despite being a tricky and skilful player who is a magnet for kicks from desperate defenders and a forward whose game is based on pace, agility and quick turns, Messi is rarely injured.
In addition, he almost always plays the full 90 minutes because he gets annoyed when he is substituted or not allowed to play even in a dead cup or Champions League match.
This is obviously a highly admirable trait in any modern footballer, but top clubs rest top players for a reason—to stop them burning out. Messi is as fit as a fiddle, but there is still the nagging feeling that he will hit a wall earlier than other players his age would.
Compared to some of the mind-bending records which Messi seems to break every other time he scores a goal these days, his record from the penalty spot is poor by comparison.
According to the lovingly updated website MessiVsRonaldo.com, Messi has failed to convert seven of the 27 penalties he has taken for Barcelona, most famously the one against Chelsea in last season's Champions League semifinal.
He may have already addressed that issue, however, as he did score four goals from 12 yards in his three final appearances of last season.