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The day we all knew was coming, but which we all feared, has finally arrived: Lionel Messi is in decline.
With six Ballons D’or, four Champions League titles, and dozens of incredible individual records, Leo Messi is often cited as the greatest soccer player of our generation, and perhaps of all time.
Since breaking into Barcelona’s team 15 years ago, his performances have filled fans with awe and joy… but the day we all knew would come is here: he is in decline.
A player who scored a sensational 50 goals in 2011-12 has only found the net in one of his last seven games—and that was against relegation-threatened minnows Eibar at home.
In the Clasico this past weekend, the Argentine had the opportunity to shine against a Real Madrid side who have been on downturn, suffering back-to-back losses to Levante and Manchester City.
But Messi failed to lift his side, mustering only two shots on target and finding himself dispossessed several times. With an opportunity to equalize with 15 minutes to go, he found himself in a footrace with Marcelo… and he lost out.
Messi of a few years ago would have seized that chance—and many more besides.
Whoscored.com awarded Messi a 6.39 rating for the match—his lowest rating of the season—and he has now gone for five Clasicos without finding the net.
Messi has gone missing in several games this year, and often looks disinterested and ponderous. It is clear he is not on the same wavelength with fellow forward Antione Griezmann, and his body language looks increasingly negative.
This may be due to several off-field issues that have arisen this season, but the fact remains: we are no longer witnessing Peak Messi.
Of course, the Barca star is still a phenomenal player: he boasts a respectable 23 goals and 16 assists across all competitions this season, and this is clearly a transitional year for Barcelona, whose squad has not well well balanced or planned.
But as Messi approaches his 33rd birthday in June, it seems his ability to adapt his game with time is being offset by an inevitable decrease in sharpness, speed and focus.