Lionel Messi believes he has weathered the storm and been given fresh motivation from what was the most challenging year of his illustrious career.
2014 promised so much in the beginning but ended dismally for the Argentine No10 who experienced difficulties both on and off the pitch, challenging his very persona at every step.
In the space of 12 month, the playmaker with the golden touch was part of a Barcelona side which lost the Liga title at home on the final day of the season and was knocked out of the Champions League at the quarter-final stage by the very same side – Atletico Madrid – whilst bitter rivals Real Madrid defeated them in the Copa del Rey and secured their long-awaited decima victory in Europe.
Many accused Barca’s No10 of simply saving his best for Argentina in what was supposed to be his World Cup during the summer, but the disappointment extended to the international stage as his country lost out to Germany in the final – despite Messi (unconvincingly) being voted Player of the Tournament.
Off-field controversies also stalked Messi – and his family – who was accused of tax avoidance in Spain, and there were even mumblings from the Barcelona boardroom that maybe their coveted star wasn’t worth the huge value the club invests, sparking a public row and a concern that all was not rosy.
The truth is that this season I tried to start it in the best possible way,” Messi said.
I was coming from a disappointing year, where I went through a lot of problems on and off the pitch. It was a challenge for me to change the image that I had given in the past season and try to return to be the player I had been in previous years.
That was my aim and with that motivation I started this season.
That motivation has been responsible for 26 goals and 13 assists in just 23 league appearances so far, putting him just two goals shy of his total La Liga goals haul from last season already.
And since the turn of 2015, Messi AND Barcelona have been in sparkling form – aside from a solitary defeat after the Christmas period. Messi admits:
The truth is that we are good. Fortunately, after our poor start to the year after our game against Real Sociedad, everything changed for us.
We are now in a different dynamic and everything is going in the right direction. The team has confidence and there is a different attitude and a lot of determination. That is the reason why we are today where we are.”
Barcelona’s current 11-game winning streak means they are just one point off the top of La Liga and look good to progress in the final of the Copa del Rey.
There is still a long way to go,” Messi said. “We have not won anything yet. There are still many months left in La Liga and in the Champions League. We also have to book our ticket to the Copa del Rey final but we must continue in this way to achieve our aims.
His focussed resolve, plus his eight goals and two assists in the Champions League this season could spell trouble for Manchester City, who are the next opponents in Europe.