Football Features

Lionel Messi broke another La Liga record in 0-1 win at Valladolid, but Barcelona are a broken team

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 20:58, 11 July 2020 | Updated: 9:53, 30 March 2021

In an focused evening of football, Barcelona beat Valladolid 0-1 thanks to an Arturo Vidal goal.

The game puts the Blaugrana back in touch wit Madrid atop the table, but Los Blancos have a point advantage and a game in-hand. The most notable moment from the match was Leo Messi’s record-breaking assist.

It was such a subtle moment, to the extent that you barely even noticed it happening. In the 15th minute of the game Barcelona were pushing up high on the right when Valladolid won the ball back. Messi pressed and regained possession for the Blaugrana.

Sergi Roberto gets the ball and feeds Nelson Semedo, the Portuguese knocks it back for Messi who takes a touch but is surrounded by three Valladolid players. There’s no angle, no pass, yet somehow the Argentine clips a delicate pass through the Valladolid back-line and sets Arturo Vidal into space.

The Chilean takes advantage superbly with a decisive strike low and hard across the face of goal. Jordi Masip has no chance and it’s 0-1 Barcelona. A remarkable goal and the only one of the game, the match-winning assist.

Of course it was most notable because it was Messi’s 20th assist of this La Liga season, to go with 22 goals. He is the top goal creator and goal scorer in the Spanish division, dominating the stat sheet to an absurd degree even at the age of 33.

Messi’s utter domination is even more remarkable by the fact that he isn’t likely to win La Liga this season. This win against Valladolid took Barcelona to within one point of Real Madrid atop the standings but Los Blancos are looking impervious right now and are doing just enough to keep on winning (they’ve won every game since La Liga restarted) and they aren’t likely to stop winning so will likely take the title.

That Messi has performed miracles so far this season, being only the second player in European Top Five League history to crack the 20-20 barrier (Thierry Henry did it back in 2002/03 for Arsenal) and has had to watch Barcelona surrender the two point lead they had when La Liga restarted is something approaching farce. Especially as in that time he has bagged three goals and eight assists.

More comedic that farcical is the fact that this isn’t the first time this has happened to Messi. Though he is accustomed to winning La Liga (he’s won it 10 times in his 15 year career), one of the few times he didn’t was in 2011/12. And if that season sounds familiar is because that’s the campaign where Leo Messi scored 73 goals across all competitions (50 in La Liga).

Yes, that’s right, Messi once scored half a century of goals in a single La Liga season and it wasn’t enough to claim the title. And why? Because the rest of the Barcelona side was riddled with flaws. They were too reliant on Eric Abidal for defensive structure and David Villa for goalscoring, and when both got injured the difficulty of trying to incorporate Cesc Fabregas slowed the team down and caused too many points to be dropped and Los Blancos romped to the title.

And so, we come back to 2020. Barcelona have been, a few games aside, not a fun watch this season. This isn’t them living on the bleeding edge of modern tactics and being caught out from squad weakness as in 2012, this is a squad that has been neglected and mismanaged to the point where it is lacking in youth and pace, and what little youth and pace it has is being neglected in favour of old-decaying players.

The problems Barcelona face are numerous and have been explained many times over, though Luis Suárez was so uniquely awful after coming on at half-time that he merits another mention. The Uruguayan replaced a disappointing Antoine Griezmann but somehow managed to be even worse. Riqui Puig was a bright spark but was taken off early in the second-half and the light left the game with him.

Messi’s magic, then, was the only true highlight of the night. The only moment where hearts were set aflutter by Barcelona football. A record-breaking goal, another entry into the history books for Barcelona’s captain. Leo Messi, the first man in La Liga history to score 20 goals and make 20 assists. Leo Messi, not a La Liga winner.

And why? Because football is a team game. No player, not even football’s greatest ever player, is enough to win by themselves. For years Barcelona knew this, and for years they prospered. But lately they have forgotten, they have lost their way, and so they have lost their La Liga title to Real Madrid. Even though they have Messi’s miracles, whether it’s 50 goals in one season or 20 goals and 20 assists, it’s not enough if the team is as disjointed and broken as it currently is.

Barcelona need fixing, and Messi alone won’t be able to do it.