When it comes to Barcelona, everything revolves around Lionel Messi.
Yet after suffering a hamstring injury which caused him to miss the club’s last La Liga match and being physically marked out of the Spanish Supercopa second leg against Atletico Madrid, it began to look as though the world’s best player was suffering a bit.
However, following Barcelona’s 3-2 victory over Valencia, it now appears as though La Pulga is back to the player the world is used to seeing.
Messi was in fine form at the start of the match at Mestalla. His movement looked impeccable. The Argentine international returned to dropping deep, as is the usual case.
The 26-year-old opened up the scoring by beating the keeper in the 11th minute. Messi then added two goals in less than three minutes to cap off a first-half hat-trick in astonishing fashion.
The way Messi scored his goals was beautiful as always. But it is not the important part of his match.
What he did off the ball and outside of the box is what fans should be excited about.
In recent matches, teams have looked to neutralize Messi by playing with extreme physicality and using force in and around the box. This tactic has made it increasingly difficult for Messi to touch the ball and has proved to be successful.
With Messi’s recent hamstring injury, his movement and pace has seemed somewhat limited. He looked more comfortable attempting to pass the ball and draw fouls than attempting to beat his defender.
But that changed against Valencia.
The four-time Ballon d’Or winner again showed his tenacity and unwillingness to go down as he danced around defenders and kept his eyes pointed towards goal. In the second half, Messi had three brilliant opportunities to score but was twice miraculously denied by the keeper and sent on chance just wide of the post.
But again, it wasn’t Messi’s ability to test the keeper that showed he was back to his best football.
The Barcelona forward created multiple chances and linked up well with Neymar and the midfielders behind him. His overall play and awareness looked as strong as ever, and you wouldn’t have known Messi had just recovered from an irritating hamstring injury by just watching the match.
According to WhoScored.com, the Argentine was able to get off nine shots while also winning six dribbles. Messi also enjoyed a passing percentage of 84 and demanded attention from every Valencia defender.
Due to his battle with hamstring issues, it is understandable that a good many Barcelona fans have grown worried. If Messi goes, it is safe to say Barcelona goes with him.
But against Valencia, Messi showed that he hasn’t gone anywhere and is not going to let an injury dictate his play. Scoring three goals was massive, but looking at his entire performance throughout the match shows that Messi is fully recovered and ready for the long season.
Will injuries continue to hurt Messi? Can the Argentine overcome physical defenders? Is La Pulga back to his best? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
Tre’ Atkinson. Follow me on Twitter for more discussions on Barcelona and all Spanish football.