For some reason, Messi has been able to produce a massive number of trophies for the Camp Nou giants while his trophy-case for Argentinian glory is not as full as it could be
When Lionel Messi plays for Barcelona, he has the responsibility to lead the team. When Messi plays for Argentina, he is still the most important player on the field. Both teams benefit from having one of the greatest superstars to ever lace up a pair of boots. Yet for some reason, Messi has been able to produce a massive number of trophies for the Camp Nou giants while his trophy-case for Argentinian glory is not as full as it could be -- which brings us to the key question: Why is Messi that much better for Barcelona than Argentina?
1. Barcelona have the better options around Messi
The first thing to consider is the personnel that he plays with for club and country. At Barcelona, he plays with two of the top five strikers in the world in Neymar and Luis Suarez. Before these two, Messi was still playing with the likes of David Villa, Samuel Eto’o, Ronaldinho and Thierry Henry, among others. While playing in a Blaugrana uniform, each of these players had an argument for being a top ten striker as well.
For Argentina, his countrymen aren’t too shabby either in reputation. Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria are all top attackers in their own right, though they are one class below the two current forwards Messi works with at Barça.
2. The difference between Barça and Argentina is considerable
In this analysis right after the 2014 World Cup, club teams and national teams were compared. As they hypothesized, the top few club teams such as Barcelona would defeat the top national teams the majority of the time if they played 100 times. However, the top national teams, including Argentina, would likely defeat clubs that aren’t the top three in the world.
Most national teams who are diluted in talent since they are limited to the players eligible to them. Although Argentina has a great deal of talent rivalling the better clubs in the world, Barcelona are stronger as a squad given the quality of their bench beyond the starting XI -- and the difference will only become larger once the transfer window reopens in January.
3. Argentina lack leadership in Messi's absence
It seems that Messi’s misfortunes with the national team come from the difference that his teammates make in important games. In the World Cup, Messi was tasked with starting almost every attack, sometimes in his own half. To the credit of La Pulga, he led his team to extra time in the final, but they could not get the breakthrough goal.
The other attacking options on Argentina have similar attacking qualities, as most of them are players that like to run at opponents in one-on-one situations. Recent performances for Argentina with a loss to Ecuador and draws with Paraguay and Brazil where La Albicelestes have scored just one goal show that they are in need of their number ten.
4. Barcelona can survive without Messi
Meanwhile, Barcelona has leaned on Neymar and Luis Suarez while Messi has been away. Neymar in particular has been in fantastic form, scoring ten goals and assisting on six more since the beginning of October. The club has become dependent on the two attackers, who have scored the club’s last 16 goals, but it shows the quality of Messi’s teammates while the Argentine heals and attempts to be able to play in El Clasico.
All in all, it appears that while Messi is sensational for club and country, Barcelona has learned not be so “Messidependent” as they have been criticized for in the past. Learning how to operate without Messi on the field or without Messi firing on all cylinders may be the key for Argentina to finally reach the pinnacle again.