Lionel Messi is no doubt, hands down, the best forward in the world.
I’m not going to say that he is the "best player", because I believe it’s impossible to compare two different positions, but that discussion is for another article.
The question is would Barcelona be the side they are today, if they didn’t have Messi?
Would they have beaten Zaragoza at all, when he was so influential in the game's outcome by scoring three goals and being awarded a penalty?
Would they have beaten Stuttgart 4—0 at Camp Nou?
I mean no disrespect to Barcelona as a club, as they are all amazing players, or to the fans, but I highly doubt that they would be the side that Europe fears most without their extremely talented player in Messi.
Here are some statistics for you to think about (courtesy of Barcelona’s official website): In the Spanish League he has scored 25 goals and has an astonishing 39 assists* in just 24 starts. I’m going to say it, “What an amazing player.”
Here is the shocking fact: Barcelona has only scored 68 goals this season in La Liga and Lionel Messi has (with goals and assists combined) created 64 goals, which leaves the other players only scoring four goals without Messi's involvement!
Yes, he is one of best players in the world, but to be involved in that many goals tells me one thing: the team is relying much too heavily upon him. What if he was injured for a couple of months? Where would Barcelona be?
In the Champions League, he has started in seven games, scoring four goals and 11 assists. (As a disclaimer, I got these statistics from FC Barcelona’s official website and they don’t add up. The goals and assists totals for Messi obviously add up to 15, while Barcelona has only scored 12 goals in the UCL this season, so unless Lionel Messi can provide assists for himself, something is wrong.)
Regardless, these stats also point to what is now pretty much to the fact that Barcelona is too reliant upon Lionel Messi in a goal—scoring sense, which, in truth, is the whole purpose of football.
Yes, with him, FC Barcelona is an amazing side and without him, I reckon that they could still (hopefully) play beautiful football.
But while it is true that good teams rely upon their star players, especially when they are seeking inspiration or are a goal down, the case with Barcelona is how much they rely upon their best star.
If he wasn’t on the team and their offensive strategy wasn’t built around him, they may have a chance to be great, but they ovbiously would have a different structure of play.
There is no question in my mind that they could still be a world class football side. But with the way that they currently compete by using their in—direct passing game strategy, I honestly believe Barca would fall apart without Leo.
As the numbers that I showed proved, the team clearly relies upon Messi, just one player in what is suppossed to be a team sport, to deliver.
And if he was absent due to injury or another reason, which probably will happen one day, they definitely would not have the attacking potency they have now. Because in the end, no one can replace the best forward on Earth.
With Lionel Messi on the field, FC Barcelona is the best team in the world. But I actually think it quite sad that for a team with that many quality footballers to be that reliant upon the one and only, Lionel Messi.
And one day, FC Barcelona is going to pay the price for doing so.
* I believe, as do most readers that a final pass that sets up a goal is an assist. In this sense he does not have 39 assists. But according to Barcelona's Official Website, assists include the play up until the goal, therefore it is in this way Messi has 39 assists.