Are Barcelona still too dependent on Messi?
Lionel Messi continued to show his class as he rescued Barcelona with a magnificent display against Sevilla, scoring a hat-trick and assisting the fourth goal of the match, as they won 4-2.
The Argentine was in sublime form, and as Barcelona went behind twice, Messi managed to drag them in the lead, taking his personal goal tally to 36 goals in all competitions this season. Apart from this, he also provided Luis Suarez with the fourth goal, hence taking his total amount of assists this season to 13.
Messi's statistics so far this season have been phenomenal, but his brilliance has often masked Barcelona's struggles, especially in other areas of the pitch. The Argentine has salvaged them plenty of times throughout the season, often scoring the decisive goal or the triumphant display. Whilst this has come to be expected by a player of Messi's quality, it has come far too often this season.
Whilst Barcelona managed to replace greats in the past, such as Carles Puyol, Andres Iniesta and Xavi, they so far have not found a suitable replacement for someone of Messi's quality. Several players have come to try and fill the role, such as Philippe Coutinho, Malcom and Ousmane Dembele, yet none of them have really hit the ground running enough to properly stake a claim to replace the Argentine in the future. Dembele has managed to up his game this season, scoring 13 goals and assisting five more in 30 matches, yet these stats are no match for Messi's numbers.
With Messi having to combat some injuries in the past few years, Barcelona have often had to call upon their other attacking stars, yet when Messi is not playing, they often fail to find the creative spark that is needed.
On several occasions throughout the season, Barcelona's dependency on Messi has come into question, most notably earlier on in the season when they suffered three matches without a win against Girona, Leganes and Athletic Bilbao, as Messi was used sparingly, with Suarez saying after the Athletic Bilbao match that they "can’t depend on Messi to solve everything".
What has also put Barcelona's troubles this season in the shadows are Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid's struggles in the league. The two Madrid sides have massively under-performed, and as a result have found themselves 10 points and 12 points behind the Catalan giants respectively, both with a game in hand over Barcelona.
Cristiano Ronaldo's transfer to Juventus has shifted all of the spotlight on Lionel Messi and Barcelona, and as a result, has effectively reduced Real Madrid's chances of challenging Barcelona to the title, as they could have done with the Portuguese star's goals in several matches throughout the season.
With Messi, Suarez, Pique and a host of other players being at the end of their careers, Barcelona have got to start finding appropriate replacements for them, as without such stars, they are toothless in all areas of the pitch.