Messi

No doubt news of Josep Bartomeu’s resignation as Barcelona president on Tuesday was greeted with rejoicing in the Messi household.

After all, the Argentine star’s appraisal of the Bartomeu years at the Nou Camp was scathing – ‘The truth is there has been no clear project here for a long time, they juggle and plug holes with no real plan.’

It led to the very real possibility that Messi would leave Barcelona during the summer, potentially for a reunion with former manager Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

In the end Messi stayed amid a legal wrangle over his release clause but as long as Bartomeu remained there would be a shadow over him.

So his bombshell exit this week is no doubt a considerable burden lifted for Barcelona’s star man. And he wasted little time in proving it.

Messi was excellent in Barcelona’s 2-0 Champions League win over Juventus on Wednesday night, a performance crowned with a goal from the penalty spot in stoppage time as they took command of the group.

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His influence all over the pitch is shown by an eye-catching pitch map of all his passes in Turin and it wasn’t lost on many observers that this excellent performance came 24 hours after Bartomeu quit.

Barca’s No 10 and captain roamed to all areas of the pitch to keep his team ticking over, with just a handful of his dozens of passes failing to find their target.

The pitch map shows how Messi drifted left and right as well as tracking back to offer defensive cover when required in a performance of energy and class.

UEFA’s stats showed that Messi attempted 87 passes during his 98 minutes on the field – including injury time in both halves – and completed 76 of them.

Only Jordi Alba attempted more passes on the night and 13 of his went in Messi’s direction.

In the end, even Barcelona’s official Twitter account was able to have a little dig at Messi’s rival Cristiano Ronaldo, absent following his positive Covid-19 test.

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It certainly represented a marked contrast to the last game of Bartomeu’s reign – Saturday’s 3-1 Clasico defeat to Real Madrid.

Then, Messi struggled to make much of an impact at all in a Barca performance that raised plenty of questions.

Messi’s heat map for the Real game shows him stuck in one part of the field, unable to make much impact on the outcome.

His subsequent display against Juventus showed a world class player having an influence on everything whether or not Bartomeu’s departure was the reason.

Barcelona fans worried about Messi’s state of mind will be reassured and Bartomeu’s exit could well mean he completes his career in their colours.

For now, Messi will need to inject a bit of life into Barcelona’s league campaign. They’re 12th at the moment, already six points adrift of their rivals from Madrid.

9jatalks Sports

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