The same day Lionel Messi signed a new contract that reportedly makes him the highest paid player in the world, he was left out of the Liga BBVA team of the season. This is pretty much a perfect encapsulation of a season in which the numbers were there for Messi, but the recognition wasn't.
Despite the injuries and frequent vomiting, the only two men who outscored Messi this season were Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez. He also had 11 assists and the highest average rating in La Liga, according to WhoScored. But the season was shrouded in negativity for Messi before it even began. Broken promises at a mismanaged series of friendlies bearing his name made children cry last summer and tax evasion charges in Spain soon followed. That combined with the rise and redemption of media enforced rival/arch-villain Cristiano Ronaldo to strip him of the "best player in the world" tag and seal the opinion that Messi was having a poor season without taking into account what he was doing when on the pitch (and in a team under a manager who didn't quite fit).
The likes of Diego Costa and Ivan Rakitic were universally praised for having breakthrough seasons because we compare them to normal humans. With Messi, the standard by which his performances are measured is freakishly high because that's what we've come to expect of him. Again, he was only outscored by Europe's two golden boot winners in 2013/14, but he still scored 18 fewer goals in just one less appearance than he did the season before. Compared to Lionel Messi, Lionel Messi experienced a significant drop off. Compared to everyone else — the people he actually plays against — he was pretty damn good.
Messi has become a victim of his own impossible achievements and image of flawlessness both on and off the pitch. He was never going to be able to sustain perfection, but mere brilliance should still be appreciated. Of course, a massive pay increase more than offsets any annoyance or indifferent shrugs over being left off a worthless team of the season, so in the end, even the world's smallest violin might be too much for this injustice.
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