Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo suggests Lionel Messi's decision to lose 3.5 kilos in the last year is behind his improved form for Barcelona.
Dermot Corrigan of ESPN FC tweeted coverage indicating Messi is working hard to remain in shape:
Such stories follow on from speculation the Argentinian was overindulging in pizza, allegedly set in motion by former Barcelona manager Carles Rexach. Charly was said to have given a controversial interview to Regio 7, something he denied, per RAC 1 (h/t Marca).
In this reported chat, Rexach allegedly indicated that Messi's stuttering form through 2014 was down to his consumption of pizzas. "I think that last season he ate more pizzas than he should have done or was necessary," was the quote attributed to Rexach, per Sport.
Rexach confirmed he has spoken to Messi about the story, per Canal+ (h/t Miles Chambers of Goal): "I spoke with Messi, yes. We talked about the pizza comments, yes. Messi and I have no problems with each other whatsoever."
Incidentally, Messi was shown to have ordered pizza as his post-match meal during September's draw with Malaga, reported by Libertad Digital (h/t David Kent of the MailOnline). While Messi's injury problems at the beginning of 2014 can perhaps be outlined as the more serious threat to his form, he has hit back with a vengeance this season.
He has netted 43 goals in 40 games, per WhoScored.com. Messi now leads the race for the European Golden Boot, eclipsing Cristiano Ronaldo by two strikes after previously being 12 behind, per Jamie Rainbow of WorldSoccer.com. While he didn't score during Barca's Champions League second-leg victory over Manchester City, he provided a stunning assist, tweeted by World Soccer Talk:
Messi was a player in full swing against the Premier League champions, something we haven't seen consistently for a couple of years. His turn of form since the beginning of 2015 has not only outlined Barca as one of the Champions League favourites, but also pushed Luis Enrique's men one point clear of Real Madrid in La Liga.
Sunday's Clasico fixture provides Messi with another opportunity to show the frustrations of last season have disappeared. Ronaldo is experiencing an opposite fate at the Bernabeu since winning the 2014 Ballon d'Or. Nothing is guaranteed when the pair go head-to-head, though, meaning Messi will need to remain on top form if he's to deliver in front of the Camp Nou.
Former Barcelona hitman Hristo Stoichkov believes there isn't an argument when discussing who should be considered the best, per Goal: "I have no doubt that Messi is better. Winning a Ballon d'Or in a season means you've been good, but cannot compare to a legend with a player who is almost at the end of his career."
Another ex-Barca goalscorer believes the same:
Whether Messi's improvement is down to weight loss remains debatable.
He was never noticeably out of shape, but is now working in a formation which allows him to roam with increasing freedom. Being able to drop deep, move through the centre and utilise the movement of team-mates such as Neymar and Luis Suarez is sure to have also played a major role in Messi's re-emergence.