Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde has said "of course" his team have a dependence on star forward Lionel Messi following their remarkable 4-4 draw with Villarreal on Tuesday in La Liga.
Messi begun the match on the bench and didn't appear likely to be used, as Barcelona coasted into an early 2-0 lead. However, an incredible fightback from Villarreal left the strugglers 4-2 in front against the Blaugrana.
Messi was called upon in the second period and in the 90th minute struck a free-kick to give his team an outside chance of sneaking a draw. Luis Suarez then netted a stunning left-footed shot to equalise for Barcelona with the final kick of the game.
After the match, Valverde was quizzed on whether his team are too reliant on their No. 10, per the Press Association (h/t the MailOnline).
"Of course there is Messi dependence," said the Barcelona boss. "It would exist in any team in the world, but when he is not there we also have to play and try to win. Leo is fundamental for us and marks the style, it is well known that he is the best in the world for something."
Eleven Sports provided footage of Messi's free-kick, which was his 32nd goal of the La Liga season, from all angles (UK only):
Here is the moment Suarez was able to snatch a share of the points for the Blaugrana (UK only):
While there has definitely been a dependence on Messi at Barcelona in recent years, the attacking play wasn't the main issue for the team on Tuesday.
Goals from Philippe Coutinho and Malcom should have been enough to put the team in an insurmountable position early on. However, once Villarreal started to build momentum in their fightback, the Blaugrana's midfield and defence disintegrated.
Kieran Canning of Agence France-Presse commented on an incredible game and noted Gerard Pique was also a huge miss for the Blaugrana:
Messi was brought on in the 61st minute when the score was 2-2, and while he struggled to make an impression on the match before the 90th minute, there was a sense of inevitability about what would happen when he was stood over the set piece late on.
In addition to his goalscoring, dribbling and passing qualities, the Argentina international has now cemented his reputation as one of the finest free-kick takers in the game, per Squawka Football:
Rafael Hernandez of Grup14 thinks the Barcelona star may get even better from these types of situations in years to come:
The draw will give Barcelona a boost ahead of their showdown with Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou on Saturday. Atletico are their nearest challengers in La Liga, although the gap stands at a healthy eight points.
There will come a point when Barcelona have to face up to life after Messi, and there's little doubt he is an irreplaceable presence in the side. But for now, Valverde appears happy to let his star man continue shouldering the responsibility.