Just the Facts: Focus on the failures of Lionel Messi

By July 03, 2019
Leighton Levy

Leighton Levy is a journalist with 28 years’ experience covering crime, entertainment, and sports. He joined the staff at SportsMax.TV as a content editor two years ago and is enjoying the experience of developing sports content and new ideas. At SportsMax.tv he is pursuing his true passion - sports.

Related items

  • Messi does not have a best position, he even did well as a keeper! - Villa Messi does not have a best position, he even did well as a keeper! - Villa

    David Villa believes Lionel Messi has so many strengths that it is impossible to pinpoint his best position on the pitch.

    The Barcelona forward won a record sixth Ballon d'Or last year and his team remain in contention for LaLiga and Champions League glory ahead of Sunday's Clasico match away to rivals Real Madrid.

    Barca lead Madrid by two points at the top of table heading into their trip to Santiago Bernabeu, Messi having scored four times in their most recent league outing, a 5-0 thumping of Eibar at Camp Nou.

    Messi's former Barca team-mate Villa was amazed by what he saw from the Argentina forward after joining the club from Valencia in 2010.

    "I don't know who said this but they said 'Messi is Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi - and even Sergio Busquets if you want'," Villa told BBC Sport.

    "When I heard it, I thought, 'That's my thought as well'. If you ask me what's his best position, I don't know. 

    "He's not a number nine but the top scorer. He's not a number 10 but he's the top assist provider. He's not a tall guy but he scores headers - he's good at everything.

    "We were thinking sometimes he's not shooting well with the right foot, then he scores amazing goals with the right foot. I think that he played as a keeper one time and he did well.

    "That's the reality of Messi. Everyone knows he's a quiet guy. He's very normal in the dressing room and on the field."

    A successful three years with Barca saw Villa win eight trophies before he left for Atletico Madrid in 2013.

    The team's Champions League win in 2011 was a standout moment, and the final of that year's competition at Wembley also produced what the World Cup winner thought was his best career goal.

    "We were playing very well but the reality is we were winning 2-1 and one goal for Manchester United would tie the game," Villa said of his superb curling strike.

    "That goal finally gave us the calm of taking the trophy. It was perfect."

  • Barcelona's miserable knockout record in Italy continues despite salvaging Napoli draw Barcelona's miserable knockout record in Italy continues despite salvaging Napoli draw

    Barcelona were held to a 1-1 draw away to Napoli on Tuesday, extending their unimpressive winless run in Champions League knockout matches in Italy to six.

    Quique Setien's men fell behind late in the first half to Dries Mertens' gorgeous 25-yard strike, seeing the Belgian go level with Marek Hamsik as the club's all-time leading scorer on 121.

    Barca did rescue a draw that at least sees them return home with an away goal, and therefore an advantage, with Antoine Griezmann equalising despite an otherwise anonymous outing.

    Still, Barca - who had Arturo Vidal sent off towards the end - remain winless away to Italian opposition in the knockout phase of the Champions League since a 1-0 victory at Milan in April 2006, when Napoli's incumbent coach Gennaro Gattuso was in the Rossoneri midfield.

    Following Tuesday's stalemate, we look back at the other results in this run...

    Inter 3-1 Barcelona, 2009-10 (semi-final first leg)

    The good old days, when Jose Mourinho v Pep Guardiola was about as gripping as it got. Although the tie was billed as being pragmatism v flamboyance, it was the typically disciplined Inter who thrilled in a 3-1 first-leg win in San Siro. Pedro opened the scoring, but the hosts ultimately romped to victory through Wesley Sneijder, Maicon and Diego Milito. The Italians succumbed 1-0 in Barcelona after the dubious sending off of Thiago Motta, but they clung on to spark comically passionate celebrations from Mourinho and Inter went on to lift the trophy.

    Milan 0-0 Barcelona, 2011-12 (quarter-final first leg)

    Barca certainly couldn't be accused of failing to dominate in San Siro in 2012, as they controlled much of the game in Italy, but Messi and company failed to find a way through. Luca Antonini was crucial to that, making a brilliant last-ditch block late on to ensure Milan went to Camp Nou with a fighting chance. As it was, Barca had too much for them in the second leg, Messi scoring two penalties as they claimed a 3-1 win.

    Milan 2-0 Barcelona, 2012-13 (last-16 first leg)

    A major shock saw Barca seemingly staring at an early exit in 2012-13, with Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng scoring in a 2-0 win in San Siro. The Rossoneri had been forced to defend desperately at times, before stealing two goals in the second period. Thankfully for Barca it didn't prove costly, as they crushed Milan 4-0 in the return leg, with Messi's brace added to by David Villa and Jordi Alba. It made Barca the first team to overturn a two-goal first-leg deficit without scoring an away goal.

    Juventus 3-0 Barcelona, 2016-17 (quarter-final first leg)

    Massimiliano Allegri's Juve became 'nearly men' in the Champions League, but there was also no doubting their class, as the 3-0 win over Barca in April 2017 showed. It was a commanding display in Turin, with two-goal Paulo Dybala turning on the style. Giorgio Chiellini rounded off the win that rarely looked like being overturned in Barcelona despite drawing inspiration from their comeback against Paris Saint-Germain in the previous round. Juve held out for a 0-0 draw.

    Roma 3-0 Barcelona, 2017-18 (quarter-final second leg)

    Barca have been involved in some monumental Champions League comebacks and turnarounds in recent years – on this occasion they were the victims. After winning 4-1 at Camp Nou, needing some luck to do so as they produced an unimpressive display, Barca looked destined for the semi-finals, but in Rome they were completely outmanoeuvred by an energetic Roma. Goals from Edin Dzeko and Daniele De Rossi left Barca twitching ahead of the latter stages and Kostas Manolas' header eight minutes from time secured a famous result, dumping Barca out of the competition.

  • Messi and Lewandowski must improve – Champions League in Opta numbers Messi and Lewandowski must improve – Champions League in Opta numbers

    Lionel Messi will hope to better a barren record on Italian soil when Barcelona visit Napoli in the last 16 of the Champions League on Tuesday.

    Quique Setien's first match in charge in the competition will see him tasked with improving Barca's fortunes on their travels in Europe, although Napoli have an enviable goalscoring record in front of their own fans.

    Bayern Munich head to Chelsea in a repeat of the 2012 final that they lost on home soil, and goals certainly appear likely given the previous meetings between the pair.

    However, the Bundesliga champions will need Robert Lewandowski to find his shooting boots given the striker has struggled in recent seasons when going beyond the group stages.

    Here is the pick of the Opta facts ahead of two tantalising first legs...

    Chelsea v Bayern Munich

    17 - The four previous matches in all competitions between Chelsea and Bayern Munich have produced 17 goals, an average of 4.25 per game.

    18 - Bayern won maximum points (18/18) and had a goal difference of +19 in the Champions League group stages this season, the best performance by a team in the group phase of the competition. However, none of the previous six teams to have won all their group games have subsequently lifted the trophy that same season.

    1 - Chelsea have won only one of their past six Champions League games at Stamford Bridge (D4 L1), a 2-1 victory against Lille last December.

    5 - Chelsea and Bayern scored the joint-most goals from set-pieces in this season's Champions League group stages (5), including three each from corners.

    597 - Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski has scored 10 goals in this season's Champions League, only the second time he has reached double figures in the tournament after 2012-13 with Borussia Dortmund. However, he has failed to find the net in his past 597 minutes in the knockout stages of the tournament, his longest drought.

    Napoli v Barcelona

    2 - Napoli were eliminated in their two previous European Cup/Champions League two-legged ties with Spanish opposition, both times against Real Madrid: 3-1 on aggregate in 1987-88 (first round) and 6-2 in 2016-17 (round of 16).

    0 - Barcelona's last away win against Italian opposition in the Champions League knockout stages came in April 2006, when they beat Milan 1-0, courtesy of a Ludovic Giuly goal; current Napoli boss Gennaro Gattuso played in that game for Milan. Since then, Barcelona have failed to win any of their five such away trips to Italy (D1 L4) and have failed to score in the past four.

    20 - Napoli have only failed to score once in 20 Champions League games at the San Paolo, a goalless draw against Dynamo Kiev in November 2016. They are also unbeaten in their past seven home games in the competition (W5 D2).

    1 - Barca have won only one of their past eight away games in the Champions League knockout phase (D2 L5), a 1-0 victory against Manchester United in April 2019. In those eight games, they have scored only two goals and conceded 17.

    10 - Lionel Messi's total of two goals in five games in this season's Champions League group phase was his lowest for 10 years (since two goals in 2009-10). His only goal on Italian soil in the Champions League knockout stages was in the 2009 final against Manchester United at Rome's Stadio Olimpico – he has failed to find the net (or deliver an assist) in each of his subsequent five appearances.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.