Lionel Messi denies Barcelona’s dependence on him

Published: November 25, 2016
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi speaking during a promotional event in Barcelona on November 24, 2016. PHOTO: AFP/ PAU BARRENA

Barcelona forward Lionel Messi speaking during a promotional event in Barcelona on November 24, 2016. PHOTO: AFP/ PAU BARRENA

BARCELONA: Lionel Messi’s prodigious talent is matched by his startling humility, which he displayed again on Thursday by denying that Barcelona’s fate is determined by his presence in the team.

The Argentina forward scored both goals in Barca’s 2-0 Champions League win at Celtic on Wednesday, days after they had been held to a goalless draw at home to Malaga in Messi’s absence.

Talk of Barcelona being overly dependant on their all-time record scorer is nothing new, although it has been less frequent in recent seasons as fellow forwards Luis Suarez and Neymar have also flourished.

Yet the weekend stalemate and Messi’s brilliant double on Wednesday, which took his Champions League total to 92 goals, including nine in this season’s group stages alone, reignited the debate about his role in the team.

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“It’s not like that,” he said at an Adidas event in Barcelona. “I’m in the best club in the world, it doesn’t depend on one player. We have a great team and I don’t think about that.”

In Messi’s eyes, tactical discipline and team structure are more important than individual talent. “Everything starts with order,” said the 29-year-old. “In today’s football more than ever. You need a team that is organised, that knows how it has to move on the pitch. Order is the most important thing.”

Messi’s double strike helped Barca reach the Champions League’s last 16 as Group C winners and allowed them to refocus on domestic duties, starting with a fixture against in form Real Sociedad on Sunday. They then host Real Madrid in this season’s first ‘El Clasico’ on December 3.

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Sociedad have won four games in a row and are fifth in the table while Barca are second and four points adrift of Real Madrid.

“It’s going to be very demanding,” said Messi. “Real Sociedad are playing very well and are high up in the standings.”

While Messi has won everything he can with Barcelona, titles have eluded him with Argentina. Their defeat on penalties against Chile in this year’s Copa America marked their third straight final loss at a major tournament.

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Messi, however, said he has learned to cope with disappointment on the international stage. “One grows up as the years go by,” said the Argentina captain. “You go through tough spells but in the end, you realise there are more important things than football, than winning and lifting titles.”

He added: “Obviously I like to win,  I want to achieve the aims we set ourselves at the beginning of the season. But if you don’t achieve it, at least you have to try.”

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