How Luis Enrique Can Restore Lionel Messi to His Best for Barcelona

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistAugust 12, 2014

Lionel Messi can be restored.
Lionel Messi can be restored.Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

Last season Lionel Messi was far from his unstoppable best, but disciplinarian Luis Enrique can restore him to his former self.

Messi was by no means awful last season, still finishing as the second top scorer in La Liga with 28 goals, behind his rival Cristiano Ronaldo on 31.

However, his overall performances were not as glowing and rich in magic as some of those he had put in the season before, when he scored an incredible 46 goals.

Perhaps the 2012-13 campaign was a freak outlier of a season but that talent still lurks within Messi, even if last term it was buried.

There were various pressures on Messi, including the approaching World Cup in which Argentina demanded he drag them to glory.

Barca were uninspired under Tata Martino.
Barca were uninspired under Tata Martino.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Furthermore, Barcelona were playing a laboured football under Martino and much of the squad seemed to lack enthusiasm, or the conviction to act when the going got tough.

Enrique can liven up Barcelona and he has already refreshed the side with players who will be anxious to prove themselves and win silverware.

From the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Marc-Andre ter Stegen to Gerard Deulofeu and Rafinha, the prospect of lifting La Liga is new and exciting.

Johan Cruyff, the former Barcelona manager, spoke to Mallorcan newspaper Ultima Hora about Messi's recent decline. He said, h/t Sport:

Messi has gone from top to bottom in each season, but he needs help to get up and he has not had much recently. We hope that Luis Enrique can get him back on track with what he has to do. Leo has a lot of quality, but most of all his living situation has changed a lot. Before, when he was 18, he was small and now he has gone from poor to multi-millionaire and these changes can be brutal.

While Enrique is not about to slash Messi's wages, he can ground the Barcelona star.
Where Tata Martino would indulge his compatriot, Enrique has implemented a strict disciplinary code, per the Daily Mail.

Martino would allow Messi to enjoy red meat, whereas former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola had weaned him off it.

Luis Enrique will restore discipline to Barca.
Luis Enrique will restore discipline to Barca.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

There is no guarantee that Enrique will follow Guardiola's ideas, but by bringing back the club rules, many of which were active under the current Bayern Munich boss, it seems likely.

Enrique is looking to prevent his players from consuming alcohol, even at meal times, which is something that Guardiola wasn't quite as strict on.

As well as sorting out off-the-field issues, Enrique could have the ingredients to help Messi on the pitch.

Last season there was just Alexis Sanchez offering top-class support to Messi in the forward line.

Neymar was injured too often and still settling into his role at Barcelona, while Pedro was not good enough.

Luis Suarez adds new unpredictability to the attack.
Luis Suarez adds new unpredictability to the attack.Michael Sohn/Associated Press

But with Luis Suarez on hand, defences will have another huge problem to worry about.

No player in world football takes on defenders with the same vicious sting as Suarez, who is happy to duck, dive, fight and scrap his way past anybody in his way.

Often this spills over into unseemly aggression, like his bite on Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup, but for the most part it manifests itself in goals and assists.

If Neymar can keep his fitness and build on a decent start in Spain, then those two South Americans will take some of the attention away from Messi. And that means that the Argentine can shine.

He may play in a slightly withdrawn role, allowing Suarez to play centrally, but that will only serve to put him in an area where he should be able to find more space.

It may just be his fight against Spanish tax laws that prevents him from finding his finest form once more. Everything else seems to be falling into place.


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