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Ranking Barcelona's Most Important Players Outside of Lionel Messi

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2014

Ranking Barcelona's Most Important Players Outside of Lionel Messi

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The phrase "one man team" is one of the most overused amongst football supporters, when a club has one player that grabs the headlines.

    It could be that the player is a level above the rest and should rightfully receive the plaudits but not to the detriment of others.

    It's normally used as a derogative term by rival fans to undermine their opposing clubs, often by those that catch the occasional highlights and only appreciate those with more obvious attributes such as goalscorers and creators.

    Even the most ardent of critics can't deny that Lionel Messi is in the top three players in the world and any team would miss a player of his quality. Luckily for Barcelona they possess some of the best footballers on the planet in their individual positions.

    Every component of a team is valuable, especially in the better sides where there are tactical connotations for everyone's position and movement.

    Here are the six most important players at Barcelona outside the brilliant Argentinean.

6. Gerard Pique

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    Jon Super/Associated Press

    No player has featured as much in the league this season for Barca than Pique.

    With Carles Puyol playing less frequently and on the verge of retirement, it has been up to the former Manchester United defender to organise the back four.

    With the team pressing further up the pitch less, Pique has been required to defend more in his own box and with his back towards goal.

    In a naturally small team his aerial ability is crucial both defensively and when attacking, as he provides a threat from set-pieces.

5. Neymar

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The Brazilian was purchased under controversial circumstances, via Eurosport, and as an alternative to Messi in the biggest matches.

    He developed within this team when the Argentine was missing through injury and was happy to take on the responsibility of being the main man.

    Seven goals and eight assists in twelve starts is a decent return for someone in his debut European campaign, via Whoscored.

    His influence will know doubt grow in the next few years, though in the biggest of matches he has shown his talent with goals against both Madrid clubs.

4. Andres Iniesta

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The Spaniard was superb against Manchester City and gave Gerardo Martino a reminder of his unique characteristics.

    He hasn't always been in favour with the manager this season but during the run-in he will be vital.

    Martino's narrow 4-4-2 system for the bigger matches, relies on Iniesta's clever movement and creation with the ball.

    Still only 29, there's time for a resurgence and his importance within this team to resume at the very top.

3. Cesc Fabregas

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    David Ramos/Getty Images

    Last summer's interest from Manchester United, per David Anderson of the Daily Mirror, has certainly done the trick for Cesc Fabregas.

    He now has a much better standing at the Catalans and he feels that the team are tactically more suited to take advantage of his style.

    "I used to think 'Hostia [bloody hell], if I move from here, we lose the ball and I leave someone free, I'll get a rollicking,'" Fabregas told Sid Lowe of The Guardian.

    "Now I have the assurance that the manager wants me to make those runs. What could be a problem isn't."

    Cesc is liberated once more and as a result has the highest amount of assists in the league, via Whoscored.

2. Xavi

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    The ageing midfielder makes the highest amount of passes per match and he has the best completion rate in the whole of Spain, via Whoscored.

    At 34, the team will need to evolve to become less reliant on him in the near future, but that's easier said than done.

    He can't help but get himself on the ball and whilst Martino's approach has varied slightly from Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova, they are still essentially a passing team with the greatest passer of them all.

1. Victor Valdes

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    Denis Doyle/Getty Images

    It used to be said that anyone could play in goal for Barcelona such was their dominance in possession.

    That didn't factor that one of the reasons they were so good with the ball, was because their goalkeeper essentially made it 11 outfield players.

    Valdes is the ultimate sweeper-keeper and his ability with his feet ensures the team are comfortable to play out from the back or ready to attack with a longer ball over the top of opposing defences.

    When he leaves this summer Barcelona have a huge hole to fill.

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