The World Cup winner feels last weekend’s Clasico showed that the Barcelona ace is struggling to adapt to what he suspects has been an injury-enforced change of position
Argentina icon Jorge Valdano believes that Lionel Messi is not the player he once was, arguing that his compatriot has lost his ability to “disrupt” defences.
Messi won the Golden Ball at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, after leading his country all the way to the final, where they were beaten by an extra-time goal from Mario Gotze.
However, his form and fitness have been the subject of much debate for the past 12 months, with some pundits accusing the four-time Ballon d’Or winner of losing his passion for the game, and others claiming that injuries have robbed the 27-year-old of the explosive turn of pace for which he was once renowned.
Valdano subscribes to the latter theory, suspecting that Messi’s relatively disappointing showing in Barcelona’s Liga loss at Real Madrid on Sunday merely served to underline that the previously prolific attacker is struggling to come to terms with what he feels has been an enforced change of position.
“Looking at the last game [at the Santiago Bernabeu], Messi is a little off-form,” the World Cup winner told Radio MARCA.
“His position has changed on the pitch and now his job is more to provide assists.
“But he has lost his ability to disrupt the defence – something which used to solve many past games for Barca.
“In the Brazil World Cup we saw that something was up with Messi: he walked around the pitch.
“He was physically not at his best and maybe that is the reason for playing further back: to not tire himself so much.”
Messi scored four goals in his first three games at Brazil 2014 but he failed to net at all during the knockout stage, during which his decreased movement was severely scrutinised by pundits and fans alike.
The Rosario native has managed seven goals and seven assists in nine Liga games for Barca so far this season, but he was criticised for missing a crucial chance in last weekend’s 3-1 loss to Madrid at the Bernabeu.