Lionel Messi saves 'dependent' Barcelona from European exit
Unfit Argentine comes off the bench and sparks debate over the team’s reliance on their star man
Barcelona 1 Paris Saint Germain 1: Barcelona scraped into the semi-finals of the Champions League on Wednesday night, overcoming Paris Saint Germain on away goals after a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou. But the nature of their progress has reopened the debate over the team's apparent dependence on Lionel Messi.
Before the game, midfielder Andres Iniesta admitted that Barcelona were often "Messi-dependent" but insisted that the team could function without him.
But events at Camp Nou appeared to suggest otherwise. A below-par Barcelona were losing at home to PSG and heading out of the competition before the diminutive Argentine came off the bench to revitalise the Catalans and inspire the equaliser, scored by Pedro, that saw them into the last four.
The Spanish even have a word for Barcelona's increasing reliance on their star man - Messidependencia. "Here it was confirmed," said Sid Lowe of The Guardian. "Afterwards everyone agreed on one thing: the four-times Ballon d'Or winner had changed the game."
Messi tweaked a hamstring in the first leg of the tie in Paris a week ago, which ended 2-2, and entered the fray last night with 28 minutes left. He had an almost immediate impact, running at the heart of the PSG defence and offloading the ball to David Villa who teed up Pedro.
"They looked to Lionel Messi for salvation and, even without scoring, the little magician delivered when Barcelona were in desperate need last night," said The Times. "The presence alone of the world’s best player was enough to transform this tie and, just perhaps, the outcome of this season’s Champions League."
It didn't matter that Messi didn't find the net himself said the Daily Telegraph, "he added a spark to Barcelona's attack, which had failed to muster a shot on target before he came onto the pitch".
The Argentine has scored 57 goals for Barcelona this season, 43 more than Barca's second top scorer David Villa, and it appears that his importance cannot be overestimated.
Messi is clearly not fully fit and, with the Spanish league already in the bag, the Times suggests Barcelona will "cover the little maestro in bubblewrap until the semi-finals".
"Barcelona are not a one-man team," adds the paper. "It's just that Messi can make all the difference, even on one leg."