On August 5, something broke at Can Barça. After 21 years wearing the azulgrana, becoming the player with the most games (778) and with the most goals (672) in the club’s history, with 33 titles behind him and 6 Ballons d’Or, Leo Messi said goodbye to the team of his life. No, he did not do it for pleasure, but the financial situation of Barcelona forced him to find a life away from the Camp Nou, where he wrote a story in gold letters that will last forever in time. And, as expected, the departure of one of the best players in history has left a hole difficult to cover. But … what do the numbers say about his absence?
When a player of the stature of Messi leaves, it is evident that he leaves a void that is very difficult to fill. We not only talk about numbers, statistics and even intimidation to the rival on the grass, but also in a question of leadership, idolatry in the stands and even image. But after the first part of the season, we are going to simply look at the statistics, at the cold data of how was Barcelona at this point last season and how you are now. Is there that much difference? How does it improve and what does it get worse? This is how the Barça team is in the first bars of its first season without Messi.
If we simply appeal to sensations, the answer is clear: something doesn’t work. We are not only talking about the institutional crisis that the club is experiencing, but it seems that these problems have been transported to the sporting level. Ronald Koeman is more disputed than ever, the team does not work and the fans begin to get impatient. On the grass, some indisputable bastions in the last courses such as Marc-André Ter Stegen, Sergio Busquets O Gerard Piqué do not finish offering their best versions, while others like Memphis Depay, Gavi or the newly recovered Ansu Fati they offer insufficient sparks to cover the deficiencies culés.
But are the numbers bad enough to talk about one of the worst seasons in Barça’s recent history? The answer is clear: no. Let us assume that any attempt to compare with the golden age of the club, with the Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Neymar, Suárez O VillaIt is not real, it is the most brilliant stage in the history of Barcelona. Therefore, so that the transition between squads has the least possible difference, it is best to compare the data from last season and this one, the last with Messi in the team and the first without him. And interestingly, the statistics say that the difference in performance is not that far.
In this season, Barcelona is 9th in the league, with 12 points resulting from adding three victories, three draws and one defeat. In the scorer section, the Barça team adds 11 goals for and 7 goals against, in a championship in which they have faced teams like Atlético de Madrid, Athletic or Real Sociedad. What do the statistics say about the past year? Well, there is not so much difference: at this point, Barça was 8th with 11 points -three victories, 2 draws and two defeats, after playing against Villarreal, Sevilla or Madrid-, scoring 15 goals and receiving 8. Certainly not so different numbers.
Europe, a disaster
The big difference in this course is in the Champions League. Last year, at this point, the azulgrana team led their group after beating Ferencvaros and Juventus, with six points, 7 goals in favor and one against … something very different from how he is today: He is last in the group, counting his games against by losses -Bayern of Munich and Benfica- and without having scored a single goal, in addition to having conceded six against. If to that we add that in 180 minutes he has not fired a single shot between the three clubs, we have the perfect broth to understand Barça’s bad path in the Champions League.
Thus, the reading that emerges from the comparison between seasons is clear: Barcelona is tracing its numbers in the league competition, but is crashing head-on in the Champions League. Both with Messi and without him, the team is showing a similar line in the local championship: very irregular, but not so far from the head as to be able to continue climbing positions. Of course, in Europe the image is very different: in a complicated position, with a difficult – although not impossible – access to the round of 16 and leaving a very poor image, very far from what is expected of a whole Barcelona.
But, How many goals did Messi have at this point last year? Only five. To this day, those half a dozen goals are missing for Barça … and the other 33 that he scored in the season. How far Barcelona will go this course will only be able to know when the course ends but, for now, if we only looked at the data we could not differentiate Barça excessively from this campaign compared to the past. Yes indeed, when europe arrives, the great showcase with the best teams in the world and where everyone wants to shine, those of Koeman are turned off. And there, without a doubt, they do miss Messi.