It hasnt been an easy month for Argentine Lionel Messi. The attacker has seen the weeks pass by and remain only two goals behind Telmo Zarras all-time top scorer in La Liga record, and on top of that, he hasnt been able to help his team succeed at all in the local tournament.
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Barcelona led the championship comfortably before traveling to Madrid for the first Clasico of the season. The Merengues came away with the victory, which was worth a lot more than three points. Barça was hit, and just seven days later, the mental side effect of the loss to their archrival seemed to still be in full effect, when the team lost against Celta de Vigo at home in Camp Nou.
The week after, against Almeria, would not be much better. The team was down most of the match and only Luis Suarezs magic would turn things around and not allow a third back-to-back-to-back losing streak for the Cules.
But in all those matches, Lionel Messi was missing in action.
The worst version of the Argentine crawled back up to the spotlight. It is the version in which Messi takes 20 steps back on the pitch, and spends most of the game simply walking on the field.
No signs of effort, no willingness to speed up past his rivals, just utter laziness from the otherwise best player in the world. Only in the Champions League, when his team really needed him most, did Lionel Messi step it up and scored two goals to beat Ajax. But still seemed like something was off with him.
Then, comes the time to suit up for Argentinas National Team, and as if it was magic, Messis best version reappears.
The electrical player that can take on anyone, the one who is ready to connect with Tevez, Di María or Agüero, and that makes all of them much more dangerous than they already are. Messi was in his habitat with the Albiceleste against Croatia, and although the Europeans were ahead for a long period of the match, finally La Pulgas talent finally prevailed.
Lio had a superb second half, and reminded everyone of the player he has always been. One that can lead the best teams in the world and that is always ready to take the initiative when things get tough.
This situation begs the question then: Does Messi feel more comfortable with Martino in Argentina than with Luis Enrique at Barcelona?
It has historically been the other way around, but ever since last year –and it probably has nothing to do with the coaching figure, as Martino was his coach at Barça last season– the tables seem to have turned.
Although Luis Enrique has devised a plan to have the team to play to the benefit of the Argentine, Messi is looking as uncomfortable as ever, and his output with the Catalans clearly shows this.
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Meanwhile, with Argentina, Messi has stepped into the leader shoes, and it doesnt even matter if Martino makes him play a bit to the right of the attack, because Lio will give his all for the Albiceleste.
Its up to Luis Enrique now to figure out how to bring the best of Messi in Barcelona, also, and for Martino to be able to keep the balance of the incredibly talented attacker who, day in and day out, reminds us more and more of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.