Thursday, May 2, 2013

Barcelona's Over-Reliance on Lionel Messi Has Finally Cost Them

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but
Barcelona’s difficult Champions
League season has come at a time
when Lionel Messi has been unable to
make the starting lineup when his club
needed him most.
Obviously, if any team had a guy who
scored more than 300 goals including
44 in La Liga and eight in the
Champions League this year, it would
be difficult not to rely on him.
And although Messi is only 25 years
old and won’t be leaving Barca
anytime soon, manager Tito Vilanova
still has a job at hand of not only
helping his team recover from two
embarrassing loses against an
outright superior Bayern Munich but
also of building a squad capable of
delivering without Messi.
Hopeful fans were no doubt looking
forward to Messi starting the second-
leg semifinal against Bayern Munich,
as he has proved capable of delivering
miracles for his side time and time
again. However, Vilanova decided to
rest him, not risking the hamstring
injury he suffered last month. This
only proved that without Messi, Barca
are not the same.
In a tough quarterfinal fixture against
Paris Saint-Germain, his absence in
the second half of the first leg opened
the gates for a possible upset. Only
Messi’s introduction in the second
half of the second leg inspired his
team to make it through to the next
round.
He was clearly not at his best in the
first leg against Bayern Munich, and
perhaps Barca were risking something
by even having him on the pitch.
Without his usual unparalleled pace,
penetration and finishing skills,
Barcelona simply could not match
Bayern. For the sake of his injury, it
was necessary to have him sit on the
bench in the second leg, but his
absence left the team without hope.
In recent years, Barca have
established themselves as one of the
best teams ever assembled, as long
as Messi has been consistently in the
starting lineup. Although we can all
hope that he remains able to perform
with the same regularity he has
already demonstrated, the realities are
that injury is an ever-present part of
the game and over-reliance on a
single player in a team sport is
always dangerous.

Lionel Messi sits on the bench against
Bayern Munich.