Messi laments a goal conceded by PSG. Joan Monfort / A
P He came out onto the pitch with a bad face, a clenched jaw and a tense face, nothing to do with that cheerful version that he exhibited in recent days. Messi's smile was the expression of Barça, capable of winning seven league games on a run. But it vanished at a stroke in Europe, perhaps because it is the thermometer, the stage that puts everyone in their place. And that of Messi has not been with the titles for years because Barça does not accompany him and because he does not rebel when the cards go wrong. As happened to him in the recent European debacles and as it happened to him against PSG, an anonymous footballer, strange as it may seem, far from being the border of passage for any Barça attack. Thus, he barely managed two shots (the penalty goal and another to the bulge); He gave 42 good passes for eight bad when he usually participates at least twice in games; he did two good dribbles (the only ones he tried); and lost 16 balls. Nothing that bothered PSG.
Years ago, in La Masia they rubbed their eyes when they saw the generation of 87 play, a first-year cadet team that won all matches to be crowned champion against rivals with one more course in their legs. Cesc, Piqué and Messi led the group that over the years mixed with other homegrown players who made an era at Barça such as Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and Valdés, also Busquets and Pedro. The concoction gave the best football recipe that had been seen at the Camp Nou, also an equation that almost always came out the winner with Guardiola in front and Leo on the mat, a team that made a sextete – he would repeat the triplet years later with Luis Enrique- before anyone else. But, after the years and success, also the bad decisions in the offices, Barça is no longer what it was and only Messi and Piqué are still standing in the team (in addition to a Busquets who has lost influence in the game), usually fundamental because they impose their law in the areas but clearly surpassed by the PSG .
Koeman decided to pull gallons and give ownership to Piqué, who had been inactive for three months due to his knee to the virule but who offered more guarantees than the inexperienced Mingueza and the rusty Umtiti, whenever Araujo was in the infirmary. Thus, as the Barça defense is gibberish and the coach chose to put order, command voice and a clean exit of the ball at the cost of delaying the lines and playing alongside Ter Stegen. It turns out that behind Barça he was afraid of leaving many meters behind him due to the speed of Mbappé and also because he did not have Piqué for too many trots, the azulgrana bet timid because they neither pressed up nor touched the ball in someone else's field. Also, a team split in the defense-attack transition because they were more concerned with offensive surveillance [not detaching from the opposing attacker or when your team attacks] than cornering PSG. Messi, who so fiercely celebrated the penalty goal, soon switched off again, lowered his head and watched the game that Mbappé would solve in the opposite goal with a splendid hat-trick , a sign that times are changing. Although nothing new for this Barça.
Judged like no other because he is the leader and because he is one of the few who can decide games, Messi does not respond when Barça is twisted in Europe and eats away when he sees how “that nice cup ”. It happened to him in 2017, when Juve shelled the Catalans and Leo did not say a peep, hoarse in a team with more touch than arrival. It happened in 2018, when Roma turned a round that was celebrated from the Camp Nou, the team and coach Valverde broke down for not giving answers. And the legend was growing that Leo did not score in the European stumbling blocks, because he did not see the door either in the first leg or in the return against Liverpool (2007), Manchester United (2008), Inter (2010), Chelsea (2012), Bayern (2013), Atlético (2014 and 2016) and Juve . Tonic that did not change against Roma in 2018, when Barça hit the Olympic floor to certify the fourth consecutive fall in the quarterfinals of the largest continental competition.
Yes, he did target and twice in the first leg against Liverpool (2019), but Anfield's history made it clear that he alone is not enough. Thesis certified by Bayern, who endorsed him eight goals in the last edition for Leo to say enough and ask to leave. Request denied for doing it out of time and because Barça without 10 is not even half. Although not even with those it is worth to catch up with PSG and discuss the tie. All accepted the rival superiority and the justice of the result. Messi, who went to the locker room as he had left – with a bad face – said nothing. Not on the lawn either. And that, for this Barça, is the worst of the slabs.