Copa del Rey triumph shows Messi there’s life at Barcelona yet
Lionel Messi scored his 30th goal of the season for Barcelona on Saturday – but what was more important was that he captained the side to Copa del Rey success over Athletic Bilbao.
This is the 13th year in succession that Messi has made the 30-goal mark, an achievement few players muster at all. This strike came about in typically special style, with a brilliant run down the right, a couple of exchanges with Frenkie de Jong then a cool finish into the corner. Another goal followed in short order, his 31st of the campaign. But that is Messi’s past.
Messi’s future, of course, is much opaquer. Out of contract at the end of the season, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain hover, eager to snatch the greatest player in the history of the game for nothing.
Barcelona, of course, cannot offer Messi the same money as those two institutions, but what they do hope to offer him is the opportunity to write a closing chapter of his career that involves him building the club up towards a new era.
Getting Messi to believe this is possible must be central to their policy of retaining him.
The clearest evidence yet that Barca are moving in the correct direction came during Saturday’s 4-0 win over Athletic Club as they scooped the first trophy of the domestic season.
The second-half display was particularly blistering, with the way the Catalans picked off their opponents in a stunning 12-minute spell reminiscent of the Blaugrana at their very best.
A muddled mess at times at the start of the season, Barcelona have looked much more like their old selves since a switch to a 3-5-2 formation. Of course there have been setbacks – most notably the Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain and the loss of El Clasico last weekend – but this new-look Barca were able to bounce back in an emphatic manner.
Lionel Messi’s Barcelona honours
|La Liga||2004/05, 2005/06, 2008/09, 2009/10. 2010/11, 2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2017/18, 2018/19|
|Copa del Rey||2008/09, 2011/12, 2014/15, 2015/16, 2016/17, 2017/18, 2020/21|
|Supercopa de Espana||2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018|
|Champions League||2005/06, 2008/09, 2010/11, 2014/15|
|UEFA Super Cup||2009, 2011, 2015|
|FIFA Club World Cup||2009, 2011, 2015|
Koeman has shown that this group has potential that can be unlocked. De Jong is leading the charge from his new, more advanced, position in the centre of the field, Ilaix Moriba has broken into the team impressively in recent times – and Ansu Fati still has to make his much-anticipated return from injury, albeit that will not be until next season.
Barcelona believe the talent is there, it is just a case of putting it all together. Messi, in the closing years of his career, is just the man to do that, president Joan Laporta believe.
And the Argentine has been shown that there is reason for optimism at Camp Nou. Now Barcelona must get him to believe thee is as much potential in this young group as those of generations past.
Saturday’s Cope del Rey success can be pivotal in achieving that, and if that is the case, it will be one of the most important titles of Messi’s career – and of Barcelona’s recent history.