THERE just seems to be no letting up on the magical exploits of Lionel Messi whenever the Argentine superstar enters the field of play in a competitive outing for Barcelona.
As the reigning La Liga champions fight to retain their crown won last season, with their main rivals Real Madrid making some real headway to deny them this, La Pulga (The Flea) became the first player in Spanish top-flight history to score 20 goals and assist in 20 or more in the same season, which came after he teed up teammate Arturo Vidal for Barça’s only goal in their win away to Real Valladolid on Saturday.
Messi increased his haul courtesy of a slide-rule pass to set up Vidal and, in the process, created a new history for himself in a long and storied Catalan legacy. He is the first player to reach 20 assists in La Liga since former team-mate Xavi in 2008/09 – with no other player combining that feat with 20 or more strikes, to date.
That means the 33-year-old is just the second player to achieve the milestone in Europe’s top five leagues this Century, after Thierry Henry, who managed 24 goals and contributed 20 assists for Arsenal during the 2002/03 Premier League season. Messi just as well currently leads in La Liga’s goalscoring charts on 22 goals, four clear of his nearest challenger Karim Benzema, outlining his continued importance to the side despite advancing years.
It is also yet another reminder to the club’s board of his immense talents, with speculation about his future at Camp Nou taking on a life of its own since reports first emerged more than a week ago. In the off chance the six-time Ballon d’Or winner holds out on agreeing fresh terms until the start of next year, he would have free rein to discuss pre-contract arrangements with any suitors; something Messi fans the world over are, at this time, sceptical about as there has yet to be confirmation from inside Camp Nou.
Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who could be staring down a shortened term should Messi decline not to take flight, has previously insisted the Argentine maestro will end his career at the Catalan giants, while his rival presidential candidate Victor Font, has also expressed similar sentiments. But for all of those close to the saga, as with the rest of the outside world, only time will tell what direction the current tide will turn.