Don't make Messi mad! Never a good time to face frustrated Barcelona captain

Don't make Messi mad! Never a good time to face frustrated Barcelona captain

The captain went to war with sporting director Eric Abidal during the week but he responded by taking his frustration out on Real Betis on Sunday

Lionel Messi has been frustrated lately, in many different ways.

Off the field, the Barcelona captain lashed out at sporting director Eric Abidal during the week, having been left bitterly unhappy with the Frenchman's claim that the squad had been guilty of not working hard enough under former coach Ernesto Valverde.

On the field, the Argentine attacker has been playing through a thigh problem, which has stopped him from hitting his absolute best level, with Quique Setien’s tougher training routines not exactly helping.

The normally mild-mannered Messi was even involved in a training-ground quarrel with goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen a couple of weeks ago, as tensions rose around the club.

And on a wider scale, he was unimpressed with Barcelona’s failure to resign Neymar last summer, not least because of Barca's Champions League drought, which now stretches back five years to 2015.

Right now, he’s also being frustrated in front of goal in La Liga, which is usually where he is most comfortable. With a personal record of 11 shots without scoring against Valencia, followed by a further 10 unsuccessful attempts against Levante, the forward hoped to break that ignominious and unusual run against Real Betis on Sunday.

Barcelona won 3-2 but Messi had four more shots without scoring, including a one-on-one. He was upset with the refereeing too. Brought down once with no foul given shortly before Betis opened the scoring, then tugged back in the box at the end but without receiving a penalty, the forward looked totally bemused by the officials.

And yet he was the game's decisive player, underlining that there really is no good time to face Messi.

Legendary AC Milan boss Arrigo Sacchi once said that there was no way to stop Diego Maradona; he would either score against you or create a goal. Against Levante, Messi set up both of Ansu Fati's goals. Here in Seville, Messi created three, to make it five assists in just two league games.

Messi’s strangely poor finishing has coincided with Setien’s arrival as Valverde's successor and it can be argued that Barca are, in general, trying to rediscover their old game under the new boss.


Giving Setien the reins has been like giving a high-speed remote-control car to a kid. He doesn’t know how to fully control it yet, isn’t sure what all the buttons do, but knows he wants to go fast.

If that means crashing a few times on the way, then so be it. They certainly went off-track quite a bit on what was Setien's eagerly awaited return to Betis.

The first half, in particular, was like a game of pinball, with Barcelona dominating in the way Setien wants in some stages, but losing their flow in others, which made them vulnerable in defence.

Betis took advantage. They went ahead after just six minutes when Clement Lenglet handled Nabil Fekir’s effort in the area and Sergio Canales sent Marc-Andre ter Stegen the wrong way from the resulting penalty.

But Barcelona waltzed down the other end and hit back almost immediately, with Messi clipping a perfect ball to Frenkie de Jong, who finished coolly.

Betis moved ahead again through Fekir, who fired in a low effort from distance after the defence - Samuel Umtiti especially at fault - stood off him.

Barcelona were rocked but swung back anyway, scoring the equaliser shortly as the interval approached. Again, Messi was the supplier, whipping over a free kick that Sergio Busquets converted.

Shortly before the half-time whistle blew to restore some order to the chaos unfolding on the field, the Argentine then missed his first big chance after being put straight through, allowing Joel Robles to smother his effort.

The same thing happened in the second half when Messi twisted and turned in the area but could only find the goalkeeper's gloves with his shot.

It just didn't feel like this night, and yet, at the same time, it was, with his looped free-kick headed in by Lenglet for Barcelona’s winning goal.

Fekir and Lenglet were both sent off in the hectic final stages of a battle to remember but there was no taking the shine off this victory for the visitors.

After the midweek spat between Messi and Abidal, and then the shock Copa del Rey elimination by Athletic Bilbao, this was a timely boost for Barca, after Real Madrid had temporarily moved six points clear at the summit of La Liga earlier in the day.

It was a big boost for Messi too, as he showed once again that while it is sometimes possible to stop him scoring, it is impossible to stop him from shining, no matter how frustrated he gets.













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