Lionel Messi: Barcelona’s solution or their problem?

For the best part of 15 years now, Lionel Messi has wowed fans of FC Barcelona.

Even as a young 17-year-old, the Argentinian had the ability to get supporters off of their seats with consummate ease.

As soon as he’d made his debut in the first team, there was never any doubt that he would go on to become a world star, but that’s been almost as much of a curse as it’s been a blessing. Continue reading

Lionel Messi’s injuries are hampering season for him and Barcelona already

It’s normally the case that by the end of September Lionel Messi has yet to score a goal this season but the 2019/20 season has started out in a frustrating manner for the Barcelona legend.

Messi has been injured for the majority of Barcelona’s games and has only played twice in the league and once in the Champions League when Barcelona drew 0-0 away to Borussia Dortmund. So 3 games in and no goals and niggling injuries has certainly hampered Messi’s start and of course his team have suffered too.

Barca are in 4th place after seven games and have already lost two games, the good news perhaps is that despite a stop/start beginning to their season and the fact that their away form has been questionable they are only 2 points behind league leaders and eternal nemesis Real Madrid.

It just shows to go how important a player like Messi is, as Barcelona have simply not been the same without him. True at times Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez have taken games by the scruff of their neck but in general not even these two great players can add the missing touch to a team who are so dependent on the Argentine play maker.

Messi now has another injury after coming back from one and coach Ernesto Valverde who first thought it would be nothing serious is sweating over Messi’s fitness. Alas whilst Messi will miss the next league game and Champions League one, the blessing in disguise for the club is that Messi most probably will not be available during the international break for Argentina. Keeping him fresh for a possible return before the end of October. Well that is the plan anyway.

Valverde himself is under his own pressure and was lucky to keep his job last season after the team failed so miserably against Liverpool in the Champions League semi-final. But the board have stuck by him, after all he has won a few La Liga titles and done so in style.

Of course it has not all been bad for Messi who actually picked up the FIFA The Best award based on last season where yet again he scored over 50 goals on the way to helping Barca win the league title. A title this season would be even more remarkable given that Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid seem up for the challenge this season.

What is sure is that Barca need Messi back as soon as possible because if his injury problems continue it could well derail the club’s season and Messi could end up have quite a forgettable one.

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Football turns back time as Lionel Messi wins The Best Fifa Award

Lionel Messi has won ‘The Best’ Fifa award ahead of Virgil van dijk and Cristiano Ronaldo and it feels as though the clock has been turned back.

This isn’t to say that Messi didn’t deserve it, because technically he is far and away the best player in the world, but it had been a few years since Messi had picked up any type of best footballer award and it will be very welcome to him that he has been recognised once more.

Messi was brilliant in the league as usual as Barcelona won another title and in all competitions he scored over 50 goals, which for his age and consistency is just simply breathtaking.

There would be disappointments for him of course. Namely the Champions League where it was clear that Barcelona threw away the chance to win it. Having a superb run into the semi final 2nd leg and leading Liverpool 3-0, they disintegrated at Anfield and lost 4-0 to lose 4-3 on aggregate. Had they kept their shape and nerve surely they would have beaten Tottenham in the final?

In the Copa del Rey, Barcelona were shocked and beaten in the final and the Copa America ended yet again in misery for him. But Messi for the first time in a few years has been recognised for his consistency in the past season, and that should be applauded.

Liverpool’s Virgil van dijk might feel aggreived along with betting punters as he was 1/5 to win the award, and his name did seem on it. Van dijk was instrumental in Liverpool’s Champions League win and the club came 2nd with 97 points in the Premier League too Manchester City. He had a wonderful season no doubt.

Missing from the gala event in Italy was Cristiano Ronaldo and given that he now plays in the country one has to wonder if information slipped out to the Juventus hit man that he wasn’t going to win the award, and so stayed away. If so this should be a story given that betting is permitted on the event, but it will probably go mostly unnoticed.

Ronaldo would have felt upset and after winning the league with Juventus and the UEFA Nations League with Portugal he might just have a point. Are UEFA declaring that the Nations League isn’t really that important after all? If it had been the Euro’s surely that would have been enough for Ronaldo to win the award.

What can be agreed at the end of the day is that the whittled down nominees are all great players and deserved to win, there can only be one and as good as he is maybe Messi’s victory has come as a surprise to some.

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Barca must countenance a Messi exit

Over the course of the last few days, an interview that Lionel Messi gave to a Catalan newspaper has received widespread coverage.

The reason for the same has been because it was arguably the most in-depth the Barca captain has been in some time, in response to a tough line of questioning.

Moreover, it was an extensive interview covering all topics, with seemingly nothing off limits.

Not even the thought of Messi earning his living elsewhere. Continue reading

Virgil van dijk is the favourite to win world player of the year- but does he deserve it?

The FIFA world player of the year now known as the childish title of ‘The Best’ has been announced. The nominated players have been whittled down to 3 players, 2 attackers and one defender. Liverpool’s Virgil van dijk is the favourite to scoop the award and he will have to fend off competition from the usual suspects in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but who out of the three of them deserve the award, and does van dijk deserve it overall anyway?

Messi and Ronaldo seem to have won the award more than me and you have had hot dinners. This year was partly successful for both. Messi won the league with Barcelona and scored 36 goals in the league, his 4th best record and 51 goals in all competitions. He had some wonderful memorable games both in the league and the Champions League, but ultimately Barca came undone, their fall from grace against Liverpool will live in the memory for some time, 3-0 up in the first leg they went to Anfield and lost 4-0. All of this plays against Messi’s greatness, and it’s fair to say that even though he is the best player in the world techincally, in 2019 this wasn’t his best year.

Ronaldo made the switch to Serie A to play for Juventus and the old lady as they are known romped home to an 8th Italian title in a row. Ronado helped that cause and was a major factor. He scored 21 goals in the league, which was good for Italy but still his lowest league total in 10 years. He boosted his chances of winning this competition when Portugal won the first ever UEFA Nations League beating the Netherlands in the final. But there would still be disappointment as Juventus mainly brought in Ronaldo to win their first Champions League since 1996, he was not able to achieve that as Juventus were knocked out in the quarter finals against a young Ajax side.

And now to Virgil van dijk who was utterly brilliant for Liverpool last season, not only did he defend in a world class manner he also knew how to pop up and score the odd goal too. Liverpool won the Champions League and came 2nd in the league, only by 1 point as 97 points and losing just 1 game all season was not good enough to beat Manchester City in a quite epic battle.

Liverpool conceded just 22 goals in the league last season which was the best defensive record in the top tier. Out of the 3 players chosen for the award it seems clear that van dijk deserves it, just over Ronaldo. But let’s look more into this, and wonder if FIFA have got the top 3 players chosen wrong and why is van dijk being chosen out of the Liverpool’s other defenders?

When we look at the Fantasy statistics from last season, the three chosen should have been Lionel Messi, Dusan Tadic and Mohamed Salah, with Messi winning. Although one must remember that these points are based on league form only. Virgil van dijk on league form only would have finished in 13th place. Though it should be noted he was No.1. in the category of defenders.

van dijk finished with 119 points whilst his team mate and defender Andrew Robertson finished with 118 points, and yet both had 21 clean sheets and Robertson had an incredible 11 assists to van dijk’s 2, although van dijk garnered a lot of points from scoring 4 goals. Still the case for Robertson to be included as one of the nominee’s in player of the year is strong, and one can wonder with all validity why he wasn’t.

We could go one better and wonder why Liverpool goal keeper Alisson wasn’t included. He got more points than van dijk last season and was surely instrumental in Liverpool’s fantastic league run and Champions League win. Given it was his debut season with the Reds he was superb and kept 21 clean sheets. Does he get punished because he didn’t score enough goals? That sounds as silly as it seems.

Anyway van dijk has been chosen to represent the Liverpool team and he probably does deserve the award. He has been more consistent and will be a top player for a good 5-6 years yet. Even Messi and Ronaldo won’t be able to stop him winning the award this year.

 

Is VAR ruining football after Cristiano Ronaldo is ruled offside by millimeteres?

VAR is a wonderful invention because it is there to stop unjust goals and award penalties that otherwise wouldn’t be given. But take the case of so many footballers week in and week out now who are having goals ruled out because of offside.

The offside law is another great rule, let’s make no mistake of that, if you are in front of the defence, then you are goal hanging, not really playing the game and just waiting for the ball to appear. Great rule. However VAR has taken everything to a new level, where a goal is ruled offside even if it’s just your nose that is offside.

At the weekend it was the turn of Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored what looked like a fine goal to give Juventus the lead. But after a VAR review it was ruled as a no goal. In every other season Ronaldo would have been given the goal. So the argument is that it was correct to give Ronaldo’s goal offside. But let’s throw this in- Did Ronaldo being millimetres offside bring to fruition that he meant to cheat, by placing himself offside on purpose? Really? Most probably not.

VAR has gone overboard, where every tiny mistake is now taken from the game and anaylised and the result is taking the initial joy out of the game. VAR is welcomed but maybe some other rules need to be changed, and the offside rule is painfully stupid. Now if you are half a yard offside or a yard that makes sense to rule out a goal. If it’s an inch, a nose, a knee, its plain ridiculous, no player is willingly cheating by having his nose offside.

What VAR will do is produce less goals now. We won’t be seeing another generation of Messi’s and Ronaldo’s whacking in 50 goals per season. Not that their goals were offside, but some would have been very close and called on, breaking up play, making the player second guess and so on. VAR has incredibly changed football, not just by a small margin but by a massive one.

Ronaldo’s goal in the book of laws shouldn’t have counted, but in the book of common sense it should have. Offside means that the player has made a grave error or was trying to cheat to get a goal. Ronaldo’s offside wasn’t either, he was just trying to play the game he dearly loves and put his side in the lead.

Some rules need to be changed, we can only hope in the future it will be.

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Barcelona need Messi back as they lose first game of La Liga season against Bilbao

Barcelona don’t usually lose too many games and in recent seasons they have gone 4 or 5 months into the season without a defeat but they opened up their La Liga campaign with a 1-0 loss against Athletic Bilbao last night.

Barca were expected to cruise as ever to a win and pick up three points and though they were the better team having a lot of attacking intent, there was always a feeling with the clock running down and the match still at 0-0 that Bilbao would get their one good chance to put this game to bed, and they did.

It happened in the 88th minute and it wasn’t just any old scrappy goal. No this was a thing of beauty and it was scored by Artiz Aduriz. That the winning goal would go to him was extra special given that he is a legend at Bilbao and he is 38 and probably playing his last season with the club. Nobody beforehand could have written the script and believed that Aduriz would be the matchwinner. For Bilbao the party went into the night and this will be a very special result for them.

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid who are expected to challenge Barca this year for the title would have been looking on at that result- could this be one of those seasons where the football doesn’t click for Barca?

Well Lionel Messi wasn’t playing and it is fair to say that at least with his club he is THAT good that when he doesn’t play he is missed. Messi currently has a calf strain and could miss all of the games this month, which is terrible news for the current La Liga champions.

This is when new signing Antoine Griezmann is expected to step up but that didn’t happen and the club will now be focusing on returning back to the Nou Camp, the question though in everyone’s minds afterwards is is this is a one off blip or is it a sign of things to come?

As usual Barca had the more possession bringing in over 70% but at the end of the day they only had 2 shots on target, that simply isn’t good enough.

Barcelona will play Real Betis next weekend at home and that will gage for us just how strong this team will be, they usually score a few goals against them, but Betis have bought well this season including getting in Nabil Fekir who has been brilliant with Lyon for several seasons.

What is clear is that the pressure is now immediately on Barcelona not to drop any more points in the next few months, that is how consistent it can be in Spain, and they will be praying that Messi can come back sooner rather than later.

LaLiga fantasy picks for the opening weekend of the season in Spain

LaLiga returns this Friday night when Atheltic Bilbao welcome the reigning champions to San Mames.

Will anyone be able to stop Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez and co from winning Barcelona’s third successive Spanish league title?

As always, we’ve taken a look at the fixtures from a LaLiga fantasy football viewpoint to help you with your picks for the first weekend of the season.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy LaLiga team this weekend. Continue reading

How will Barcelona use all its attacking talent this season?

Antoine Griezmann

Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Luis Suarez, Ousmane Dembele, Malcom and Philippe Coutinho.

Not a bad selection, is it?

They are the attacking players available within Barcelona’s first-team squad at the moment.

If the club had the necessary funds this summer, you could have added Neymar‘s name to that list.

Antoine Griezmann’s signing from LaLiga rivals Atletico Madrid freshens up the frontline with the Frenchman expected to make it into the starting eleven right from the off. Continue reading

If Messi isn’t the Ballon d’Or, they should scrap it

Screenshot 2019-07-11 at 11.00.53

It’s long been contended that the Ballon d’Or has lost its shine as a worthwhile award.

Why?

Tactical voting, ridiculous PR campaigns designed to ensure certain players are front and centre around voting time despite having a poor year.

No definable metrics as to exactly how becoming the Ballon d’Or is measured. Continue reading