Madrid, Sunday @PeopleSports11
After Catalan independence, Messi-dependence for Barcelona. On Friday, the region officially declared secession from Spain and on Saturday, the Argentine attacker showed why he too is considered different from the rest.
Evergreen striker Aritz Aduriz twice came close to giving Athletic Club the lead in the Basques’ first fixture against their former coach Ernesto Valverde, but Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made two fine saves.
Perhaps that clicked Lionel Messi into life, because a minute later he dribbled through the home side’s defence and looked certain to slot the ball into the net, only to hit the post. It was an uncharacteristic mistake from the five-time Ballon d’Or winner, although he himself had created the opening with his remarkable run. Barca were playing in fits and starts, but everything seemed to blossom at the feet of Messi.
And after his earlier miss, he made amends by starting and finishing a majestic move. With Andres Iniesta missing through injury, Neymar gone, Luis Suarez badly off form and Ousmane Dembele sidelined, it was all about Messi in this match, just as it has been so often in the past.
In the second half, the Argentine tracked back to help out with defensive duties and his late run ultimately set up the Catalans’ second of the night for Paulinho after Suarez saw his shot saved by Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Earlier on Saturday, Tottenham lost to Manchester United without Harry Kane at Old Trafford, while Real Madrid struggled earlier on in the season when Cristiano Ronaldo was handed a five-match domestic suspension.
As a playmaker and a forward, Messi is independent from the rest right now and his fantastic form means Barcelona are untouchable too in La Liga at the moment. Catalunya might not need Spain to prosper in future, but Barcelona depend on their main man more than ever. Welcome to the Republic of Messi! -GOAL