Lionel Messi: Prolific Goal-Scorer Must Lead Barcelona to Team Success in 2013

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 16:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring his sides third goal during the la Liga match between FC Barcelona and Club Atletico de Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium on December 16, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

There are few things Lionel Messi has not already accomplished, but team success is the most important thing needed to keep his status high.

In 2012, the forward had one of the best individual years in the history of the sport. He scored 91 goals over the 12-month stretch, a new record. In all likelihood, he will once again win the FIFA Player of the Year award.

However, the year was still incomplete. In many ways, it was one of the worst seasons in years.

The reason for that is the lack of team success on Barcelona. After winning both the Champions League and La Liga in 2011, the club was unable to secure either last season.

A loss in the semifinals to Chelsea ended the dream of repeating as UCL winners, and the squad had to watch hated rival Real Madrid win the league.

This year needs to be different.

Messi agrees with this sentiment, telling El Mundo Deportivo that he cares more about team success than individual record (via ESPN):

I am happy with my goals and my records, but this year could have been better with trophies. I always say that the important thing is the group, and my goals, without trophies, have no importance.

It does not matter if he scores four goals in a game if his team loses 5-4, which is something that every athlete in a team sport should agree with.

Fortunately, this season should be much better. The club already has a nine-point advantage in La Liga after starting the year with 16 wins and one draw in the first 17 games.

Just as importantly, Real Madrid is 16 points behind in the table and it will take quite a lot to force a comeback this season. 

If things continue this way, Barcelona should be on the way to their fourth league title in five years.

However, this club has bigger fish to fry. The best measuring stick is how they perform against the top teams in Europe in the Champions League.

So far, the squad is heading in the right direction. It easily won Group G in the first phase with 13 points. Only two clubs earned more points in six games. 

Next up is a battle with AC Milan, which could not top fellow Spanish team Malaga in Group C. They should have little trouble advancing.

Still, this is where the team must be careful. Messi cannot afford a bad game against any top teams because it could be devastating. He was shut out of both legs against Chelsea a year ago and it cost his team a chance at a title.

Messi is not only the best player on his team, he is also the most important. The squad relies on him to put points on the scoreboard and lead them to victories.

Therefore, he needs to get goals when it matters most, not just in blowouts. If he does, Barcelona will reach the highest levels of success.

Only at that point can Messi truly claim to have done something worthy.



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