Why 70 Goals Is a Realistic Aim for Barcelona's Lionel Messi in 2015/16 Season

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistJuly 31, 2015

Barcelona's Lionel Messi kisses the trophy after winning 3-1 the Champions League final soccer match between Juventus Turin and FC Barcelona at the Olympic stadium in Berlin Saturday, June 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Scoring 70 times in a season borders on preposterous. But preposterous is the realm Lionel Messi resides in, so it's a realistic target for him as he heads into the new season.

Of course, the Argentinian is more motivated by team success than individual goal tallies. That much was reflected in Barcelona's 8-0 win over Cordoba toward the end of last season.

With Messi on a hat-trick, his side were awarded a penalty. He's the usual taker, and most expected him to step up to the spot.

Instead, he encouraged strike partner Neymar to take the ball. He duly did, firing home.

"It's a detail I will never forget. He could have scored a hat-trick, but he left the penalty to me. It left me without words. I learn a lot from him, both on and off the pitch," said the Brazilian, per Sport.

Daniel Tejedor/Associated Press

Most made out that Messi was fighting with Cristiano Ronaldo to be the league's top scorer, but giving Neymar that spot-kick showed the Barcelona No. 10 had other objectives on his mind.

Neymar had been struggling to reach his best form, so Messi decided to give the forward an opportunity to boost his confidence.

After all, if Neymar is at his best and slicing opposition defences in half, there's much more space for Luis Suarez and Messi himself to operate.

Messi scored 43 times in La Liga last season as he returned to his best form, albeit from a different position on the pitch to where he played in previous years. In total, he notched 58 goals.

His form was bordering on the performances he turned in during the 2011-12 season, when he managed 73 goals in all competitions.

MANU FERNANDEZ/Associated Press

So asking Messi, who looks extremely comfortable now, to match up to a record he has already set shouldn't be out of the question.

Of course, his game has changed since then, with the player calmer on the ball and making the right decision almost every time he has it.

Sometimes, that costs him in a selfish sense, because he’s far more likely to play a through ball than try and beat a handful of defenders and go for goal himself.

Of course, he still picked the latter path on several notable occasions last season, but that was usually because there were no better options open to him.

But if Barcelona continue to grow and improve under Luis Enrique, as they did in the second half of last season, then Messi’s potential to score will increase regardless of whether he’s trying to be more selfless.

Barcelona's coach Luis Enrique and Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (R) celebrate after winning the UEFA Champions League Final football match between Juventus and FC Barcelona at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin on June 6, 2015.            AFP P
ODD ANDERSEN/Getty Images

His relationship with Neymar and Suarez is rising rapidly too, with the strikers producing some phenomenal combinations in the final few months of the season.

The trio has to hit a ceiling at some point, but until then, each of the forwards is going to keep improving and will find more chances, more opportunities and more goals.

Suarez improved throughout last season and his team-work with Messi and Neymar was more impressive the more they played together. You would expect this to continue and potentially result in more chances for the Argentine, thanks to his strike-partner's unselfishness.

Furthermore, Suarez will be available to play for the whole season, instead of being hampered by suspension like last year. 

Michel Euler/Associated Press

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

There's also the addition of Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid, another creative force and one to take some of the burden from Andres Iniesta's shoulders. 

Arda is a clever player and when he can join the side, from January thanks to the FIFA ban on registering players which Barcelona are under, him and Messi clicking quickly would be a good bet. 

He may also get to play more games, barring injury and suspension, with Barcelona able to achieve their greatest number of games played in a season, per Sport, if they go through to the end in all competitions.

Messi came back from the World Cup last season having been criticised and enjoyed arguably his greatest-ever season. He will have been stung by what people said after his Copa America final disappointment too, so don't be surprised if he hits the ground running.

If Messi scores 50 goals next season instead of 70, that would still be another exceptional year. If you asked the player himself, simply scoring 30 would be fine if Barcelona picked up the sextuple.

But it is well within the Argentinian’s capabilities to score 70. In fact, given he’s a notorious record-smasher, perhaps we should be setting the bar even higher.

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