Now imagine that your best player is the world’s best. In the eyes of so many, three-times Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi is the best player in the world, perhaps even in the history of football. Against Las Palmas on 16th September 2015, Messi suffered a tear in his ligament in his left knee which could potentially rule him out of the game for up to two months.
Will his absence be felt by Barcelona? Now remember the opening questions?
Messi played every single La Liga and Champions League match last season for the Catalan club as they swept all before them. A staggering 53 goals were scored by the little Argentine as he helped his club to wrest the Champions League trophy away from arch-rival, Real Madrid. It’s ridiculous to even imagine any club, even Barcelona for that matter, are not missing a player who on average last season scored two goals with every five shots he made.
Now, the numbers will show that in fact Barcelona wins 88.9% of their matches without Messi compared to the 71.2% with him in the side. However, the numbers only tell a certain portion of the impact. A look at the 2013/14 season where he missed seven league matches will tell us why.
Out of the seven matches that Messi missed, Barcelona won five of those but the wins came against Real Vallodolid, Granada, Villareal, Getafe and Elche. None are the sides you would expect to trouble Barcelona, who without Messi, are still considered a formidable side to be Europe’s best. However, the other matches were two defeats against Malaga and Athletic Bilbao where against tougher oppositions, his absence was keenly felt.
Since picking up that injury against Las Palmas, Barcelona had played Bayer Leverkusen and Sevilla. The home win against last season’s fourth best team in Bundesliga who has lost three first-teamers in Son Heung-Min, Gonzalo Castro and Josip Drmic. In the only other match, Barcelona lost at Sevilla. A Sevilla side that has only won once in the six rounds of matches already played in the league this season and that was against lowly Rayo Vallecano.
Messi’s ability to conjure something out of nothing is at times, breath-taking. With the ball seemingly glued to his feet, his weaving away from players in tights spots is an art form itself. If Messi returns to action as planned, Barcelona would have already played Vallecano, BATE Borisov, Eibar, Getafe, BATE again and Villareal.
The reigning La Liga and Champions League holder may yet win all of those matches but arguably would have done so easier if Messi is in the side.