The Lionel Messi era has been brilliant, but is has proved the undoing of some of the world’s best players…
Alexis Sanchez has been a humongous success at Arsenal so far this season and has, at times, almost single-handedly carried them to success – particularly in the Champions League.
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The 25-year-old Chilean, who joined the Gunners for £35m earlier this year, has already scored 14 goals in just 22 games this season, and has quickly become a key figure for the North London side.
Compare this with the time he spent at Barcelona, where he scored a highly respectable 47 goals in 141 games, but often found himself on the outside looking in, as he played second fiddle to Lionel Messi.
Only once did Sanchez play more than 30 times in La Liga, and he was regularly forced out wide, rather than being allowed a freer, central role, such as the one he is currently enjoying at the Emirates Stadium.
This is a scenario that has been played out time and time again at the Nou Camp. Think David Villa, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Yaya Toure, and arguably – Neymar and Luis Suarez – some of the world’s best players, prevented from reaching their potential due to an over reliance on one player.
In previous years, Barcelona have been allowed to get away with this flaw, due in no small part to the sheer brilliance of Messi – who has scored a truly astonishing number of goals, and consistently avoided major injury issues.
But now, with Messi’s influence showing its first small signs of waning in several years, Barcelona are finding themselves in need of a plan B. The Argentine found the net 41 times last season, his lowest tally since 2008-09, and at 27 years of age, his peak years are running out.
They have spent an extraordinary amount of money on Suarez and Neymar, and landed themselves in hot water with the signing of the latter, but have become guilty of trying to pack too many big names into their multi-million pound side.
Suarez was an icon at Liverpool, and Neymar enjoys almost god-like status while playing for his national team, and the ultimate question has to be whether these type of players can all co-exist in the same team, when they are accustomed to being the main man.
Barcelona went without a trophy last season, and have lost arguably their two biggest games of their current campaign – against Real Madrid and Paris Saint Germain. Suarez has scored just one goal thus far, and once again Barcelona find themselves looking to Messi for inspiration.
Some truly exceptional players have come and gone at Barcelona, but for one reason or another, have failed to find a permanent home at the Camp Nou. Sanchez looks set to become a Premier League great, while the Catalans must look towards their next generation, because the Messi-era won’t last forever.
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