Messi one of four to score in 17 successive LaLiga seasons - could it be his last?

By Sports Desk September 27, 2020

Lionel Messi has dominated the headlines for Barcelona since their 2019-20 season finished, but he showed little sign of letting off-field matters impact his performances as he helped secure a 4-0 win over Villarreal.

Barca were in action on Sunday for the first time since losing 8-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals last month, a result that seemed to start a tumultuous chain reaction at the club.

Quique Setien was sacked and replaced by Ronald Koeman, Luis Suarez was deemed surplus to requirements and ultimately sold, that angered an already disillusioned Messi – who attempted to force a transfer, and supporters subsequently launched a bid to oust president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

But the Blaugrana returned to the pitch and blew Villarreal away to begin the Koeman era victoriously, Barca's baggage seemingly left to one side and forgotten about for an evening at Camp Nou.

Messi was at the fore as he usually is and, after seeing Ansu Fati terrorise the visitors with two early goals, the superstar Barca captain dispatched a penalty that the teenager won.

That goal meant Messi has scored in 17 successive LaLiga seasons, making him just the fourth player to ever achieve the feat.

Real Madrid greats Santillana and Sergio Ramos – who scored against Real Betis on Saturday – both netted in 17 consecutive LaLiga campaigns, with the former doing so between 1971 and 1988.

The only player to have scored in more successive LaLiga seasons is Agustin Gainza, who reached 19 straight campaigns for Athletic Bilbao from 1940 to 1959.

Given the uncertainty around Messi's future, one has to wonder whether the 33-year-old will make it to 18.

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  • Koeman: If we do not improve our attitude, there is nothing else to say Koeman: If we do not improve our attitude, there is nothing else to say

    Ronald Koeman has demanded Barcelona's attitude in away matches improve after the they went down 2-1 to Cadiz in LaLiga.

    Barca had lost just one of their previous eight fixtures in all competitions heading into Saturday's clash with Cadiz, who had already claimed the scalp of champions Real Madrid this term.

    The only defeat in that run came at the hands of Atletico Madrid in Barca's last away outing in LaLiga, however, and their poor form on the road under Koeman continued as Alvaro Gimenez and veteran forward Alvaro Negredo clinched another famous win for Cadiz, who had just 17.9 per cent possession.

    Cadiz moved up to fifth, while Barca sit 12 points behind leaders Atleti, who overcame Real Valladolid 2-0, with their tally of 14 points from 10 league matches their lowest since 1987-88 when adjusted to three points for a win.

    Barca had 21 attempts, though only eight hit the target, and Koeman's side had to rely on an own goal from Pedro Alcala to get on the scoresheet.

    The Blaugrana have failed to win four straight away LaLiga games (D1 L3) for the first time in a single season since 2007-08 under Frank Rijkaard.

    The result was one that Koeman planted firmly on his players, insisting that Barca's attitude on their travels has not been up to scratch.

    "We can't concede a second goal like that. It's a lack of concentration," Koeman told Movistar of Negredo's goal, which came when he charged down Marc-Andre ter Stegen after Clement Lenglet failed to control a throw-in.

    "It's hard to explain what happened because we had a good week. I think the first half wasn't good. We lost a lot of balls. There was a little improvement in the second half.

    "It's a giant step backwards to be able to compete for LaLiga. I'm very disappointed. There are many points dropped away. If we do not improve the attitude away from home, there is nothing else to say.

    "We have ups and downs in our games, in our attitude, although in principle it is good, but there are moments that it is not.

    "When we don't have the ball, we fail a lot. This is an attitude [problem] of the whole team."

    Barca have conceded first in their past four away league matches, a trend which concerns Koeman, who claimed his team are letting in the types of goals his former clubs have not.

    "In away games they put us behind and that's more complicated," he continued.

    "We don't have spaces to play and also, and we have to know this, we conceded goals that I couldn't think of happening in other teams that I have coached.

    "It is very difficult to explain, it may be because we lack concentration, we lacked aggressiveness, but it is not easy to explain how we conceded the second goal."

    Next up for Koeman is a home clash with Juventus in the Champions League, though both sides have already qualified for the last 16.

  • Busquets baffled by mistakes as Barca pay price in third away match running Busquets baffled by mistakes as Barca pay price in third away match running

    Sergio Busquets acknowledged Barcelona cannot afford to continue making costly defensive errors if they are to turn their season around after a dismal defeat at Cadiz.

    Barca went down 2-1 in Andalusia on Saturday to extend their winless run away from home in LaLiga to four matches.

    The winning goal, scored by Alvaro Negredo, came after a dreadful mix-up at the back as Clement Lenglet failed to control a simple throw-in and Marc-Andre ter Stegen's clearance was charged down.

    The goalkeeper was not blameless, but the decisive strike went down as a Lenglet error, according to Opta, his first in 99 league games for the Blaugrana.

    While it was a rare lapse for the centre-back, these mistakes are becoming worryingly common among his team-mates.

    In their past three away games, from which Barca have taken just a point, Ronald Koeman's side have conceded three of four goals due to errors.

    Neto was embarrassingly tackled in the draw at Deportivo Alaves, before Ter Stegen needlessly charged from his line in the one-goal defeat to LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

    Even the opener at Cadiz, although not deemed an error, came after Oscar Mingueza aimed a header at his own goal, allowing Alvaro Gimenez to tuck away the rebound.

    It meant Barca lost despite boasting 82.1 per cent of the possession, the second-most for a beaten side in LaLiga since 2005-06, behind only the 2013-14 Blaugrana team at Granada (82.28 per cent in a 1-0 defeat).

    "We reacted, but it costs us much more if there are two goals," midfielder Busquets told Movistar. "We made a mistake and then there was half an hour left when we equalised, but we made another mistake.

    "Individual mistakes are costing us a lot. We will have to correct that, have more fortune, and continue."

    Barca have had six errors leading to shots and three to goals in LaLiga this term, yet their three such mistakes in Champions League matches – including one from Lenglet – have gone unpunished.

    Koeman's men lead their European group with five wins from five and can clinch top spot against Juventus on Tuesday.

    "In the Champions League, the team seems different," Busquets added. "I do not know why.

    "What I can say is that, in recent games, occasional errors turn the game against us. If they score a goal, they close up at the back.

    "We cannot blame ourselves for attitude or commitment but this costs you games."

    The meeting with the Bianconeri provides a welcome distraction from what is turning into a particularly testing league campaign, with Barca way down in seventh and already 12 points behind Atleti.

    Busquets said: "There are many defeats. It is clear that there is a lot of LaLiga left, but the more we lose the more we fall away from the top positions."

  • Messi is Barcelona's player – PSG chief Leonardo responds to Neymar plea Messi is Barcelona's player – PSG chief Leonardo responds to Neymar plea

    Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo said "we don't touch other people's players" when asked about the possibility of Lionel Messi teaming up again with Neymar at the Ligue 1 champions. 

    Brazil international Neymar caused a stir in the week, saying there is nothing he wants more than to line up alongside his former Barcelona team-mate again next year.

    Messi failed to engineer a move away from Barca in the previous transfer window but, with his contract running out next June, it remains unclear whether he will choose to leave in 2021.

    Neymar and Messi played together at Camp Nou between 2013 and 2017, but Leonardo did not want to talk up the chances of a mouth-watering reunion between the pair in Paris. 

    "You know, it's normal for Neymar to say that to an Argentinian journalist," he told Canal+. "He had to talk about Messi. It's normal.

    "We have to maintain respect for others. He's a Barcelona player. When somebody talks about our players, we are not happy. So we don't touch other people's players. Now is not the time to think about the transfer window.

    "We are very happy with the squad we have. We are thinking of our season and the end of the first part of the season, which was very complicated.

    "We have to stay focused on our goals such as qualifying for the last 16 in the Champions League. And also we have to think about Ligue 1, and avoid finding ourselves in a complicated situation. Let's keep our focus."

    After picking up just one point from their previous two Ligue 1 games, PSG returned to winning ways with a 3-1 victory over Montpellier on Saturday. 

    Kylian Mbappe scored the third in stoppage time with his 100th goal for the club and Leonardo revealed talks over a new contract for the 21-year-old are progressing well, with his current deal running out in 2022.

    "We're talking," he said. "We want to discuss and he also wants to discuss. Now is also the time to come to a clearer idea of his future. 

    "It is going well. We have taken steps forward compared to 10, 15 days ago and we will continue."

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