Monday, November 29, 2021

Messi is the greatest of all time, but Barca must move on – Xavi

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 8 Nov 2021

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New Barcelona head coach Xavi says it is important the club no longer dwell on Lionel Messi’s exit as they have others who can step up and fill the superstar forward’s void.

Barca have got off to a poor start in their first season without Messi since 2003-04, the Catalans having won just six of their 16 matches in all competitions.

Argentina international Messi scored 672 goals and assisted 265 more across his 778 appearances for the club, amounting to 937 goal involvements in total.

Messi averaged a goal every 110.3 minutes in all competitions in his final season with Barca (38 goals in 47 games) before joining Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

That compares to a goal every 237.3 minutes for Barca’s leading scorer Memphis Depay this term (six goals in 16 matches).

Ansu Fati inherited Messi’s number 10 shirt and has averaged an encouraging one goal every 91.8 minutes in 2021-22, but that is across just eight matches and is set for another spell on the sidelines.

Only three others – Martin Braithwaite, Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique (two each) – have scored multiple goals for Barca this season.

One of the big tasks on Xavi’s hands after being officially presented as Ronald Koeman’s successor on Monday is to get the most out of the attacking players available to him.

And while the Barca midfield legend would love to be able to call upon Messi and some other former team-mates, he is eager to look to the future rather than the past.

“I’d have liked to have managed Messi, of course, and also Samuel Eto’o, Ronaldinho… but they are not here,” he said at a news conference.

“I still have a close friendship with Leo, that is well known. He has written to wish me luck. As always, he has joked around. He is a real joker.

“I wish him all the luck in the world. He is the best player in the history of football and obviously the history of this club, but we do not have him.

“We have other players that need to perform and be good in his place; players who can make a difference on the pitch. We cannot think about the players we do not have.”

Messi’s first three months at PSG have not entirely gone to plan either, the six-time Ballon d’Or winner having played in just eight of their 18 games due to niggling injuries.

He has had 15 shots without finding the net in Ligue 1, failing to score from an expected goals value of 1.9, with his only three goals to date coming in the Champions League.

Only Clermont Foot midfielder Jim Allevinah (16) and Troyes forward Renaud Ripart (19) have had more shots without scoring in the French top flight this term.

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