Messi entered the scene as an explosive winger. Still, he showed his full potential only when, during the Guardiola era in Barcelona, he interpreted the role of a false nine uniquely. Over time, as he matured, he began to add more and more functions to his role on the field — with Luis Suarez and Neymar in the front line, he adapted and moved back to the right side.
Later he began to gravitate slightly deeper. The Messi we saw at the World Cup in Qatar 2022 represents the last, ultimate phase of that evolution.
A player who starts attacks in his half as a number eight brings the ball into the penalty area as a number ten and scores as a number nine. A combination of form and function. An attack consisting of one player. Genius in full bloom.
Modern coaches, at least those of the highest calibre, have long understood that space is by far the most valuable commodity in sports and that they can structure the game not only through traditional positions in the formation but by using players as zones on the field (after all, this principle is the basis of a large part of different the idea we associate with the term juego de position).
When one player is the best at what he does in three of the four zones of the game simultaneously, space management suddenly becomes much easier.
This is precisely why many rightly write that Messi is irreducible to numbers, statistics, assists and goals, key passes, and dribbles. We seem to be intuitively aware of this: Messi is the best player in the world not because he scored 40+ goals and assists in the time when he played at Barcelona, but because he is a historical anomaly; simultaneously, the best dribbler, the best creator, and the best goal scorer.
For all that, Barcelona’s legend is unique in world football: from 2008 to today, he has more balls into space, successful dribbles, passes into the attacking quarter of the field, passes into the penalty area, and touches inside the penalty area than any other player in the world. From 2010 to 2021, Messi averaged an insane 1.42 goals and assists per game. Here is a review of some of Messi’s best seasons in his career:
6. 2015/2016 season
This was the season when Messi won his fifth Ballon d’Or, scored his 300th goal for Barcelona, and played his 500th match for this team. This season he played 49 games, scored 41 goals, and made 24 assists. He won LaLiga, Copa Del Rey, and his 5th Ballon d’Or.
5. 2014/2015 season
It’s interesting that at the beginning of this season, there were rumours that Messi was ready to leave Barcelona and look for a new challenge. And the start of the season was awful for Barcelona and Messi. Soon everything changed, and by the end of the season, Messi scored 58 goals and made 31 assists in 57 matches.
He won the Champions League, LaLiga, and Copa Del Rey with Barcelona, and he was awarded as Champions League top scorer and LaLiga POTY.
4. 2009/2010 season
This was the season when brilliant Messi won his first Ballon d’Or. He was also named FIFA World player of the year, and he was only 22 years old. With Barcelona, he won the UEFA Super cup, LaLiga, and Spanish Super cup, while individually, he won Ballon d’Or, LaLiga top scorer, LaLiga POTY, and Champions League top scorer. He played 53 matches, scored 47 goals, and made 12 assists.
3. 2018/2019 season
In the 2018/19 season, Messi with Barcelona won his 10th LaLiga title, and of course, he was the top scorer in LaLiga. Besides, he was the top scorer in the Champions League and LaLiga POTY. With the team, he won LaLiga and Spanish Super Cup. He played 50 matches, scored 51 goals, and made 22 assists.
2. 2008/2009 season
This was the season when Messi became immortal in Barcelona as he helped the team to win its first treble. This will be written and remembered as one of the best seasons of Barcelona, not only because of the trophies but also of how they played and dominated the opponents. With Barcelona, Messi won LaLiga, Champions League, and Copa Del Rey, while with Argentina, he won Olympic Gold. He scored 38 goals and made 19 assists in 51 matches.
1. 2011/2012 season
The 2011/2012 season will be remembered when Messi broke all the records he could break. He became Barcelona’s all-time best scorer and broke the record held by Cezar Rodriguez, 57 years old.
He became the first player who scored five goals in a single match in the Champions League, and he set a world record for goals scored in one calendar year, breaking Gerd Muller’s record. He won the Spanish Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and Copa Del Rey. Individually he won another Ballon d’Or, LaLiga POTY, LaLiga, and Champions League top scorer.
This is only a small part of what Messi achieved and won during his career, but one moment, one trophy certainly holds a special place in his heart, and that is the World Cup title that he won with Argentina in the World Cup in Qatar.