By Brendon Netto
Barcelona beat Granada 2-0 on Saturday at the Camp Nou to claim their fifth league win in as many games. However, the headlines the following day were dominated by the on-field disagreement between Lionel Messi and David Villa as frustrations grew prior to the opening goal.
Granada put in an admirable performance as they defended very deep and made it difficult for Barcelona to have a sight at goal while fashioning a couple of great chances for themselves as well. The altercation between the two forwards came about towards the end of a disappointing first half for the Catalans.
Villa tried to play in Messi who was crowded out in the penalty box and failed to control the ball as it went behind for a goal-kick. The Argentine was visibly exasperated and bellowed at his teammate for not passing the ball to him earlier. Villa responded to Messi’s criticism and the two indulged in a momentary row with each other.
The duo have seen better times
It was the first time that Barcelona fans saw their hero and talisman is such bad light and it was probably a side to the superstar they never expected to see. There have been instances like in the game against Milan last season when he shouted at Christian Tello who preferred to have a go instead of passing to his Argentine teammate. Cristiano Ronaldo is constantly criticized for his antics on the field and although the Portuguese skipper does himself no favours in that regard, even he has never had such a public confrontation with one of his own teammates.
Yes, many players make their frustrations known to their teammates but to argue back and forth during a game takes some doing. Messi has always conducted himself well on and off the field but at the age of 25, he is now one of the senior-most figures in the side owing to the longevity of his service from such a young age and the quality of the same as well. Perhaps, the Ballon d’Or holder has reached a stage in his career at Barcelona where he feels confident and dominant enough to have a go at one of his comrades if he feels the need to.
Messi has consistently performed as Barcelona's go-to man
It may be a good idea for Tito Vilanova to clear the air between the two players before the next game if he hasn’t done so already. We would do well to refrain from reading too much into this conflict given that these things can happen in the heat of the moment in a competitive environment. What should be highlighted about this incident is that the players possess an insatiable desire to succeed in spite of sitting comfortable at the top of the league table even before securing the three points.
In all honesty, Messi may even have earned himself an outburst or two considering the amount of pressure he is under to perform better than the rest week in and week out. When Barcelona are in desperate need to break the deadlock or score a crucial goal, Messi has stepped up to the plate and delivered the goods time after time.
But that doesn't give him the license to have a go at his teammate in public which casts doubts over the team spirit, which is a vital cog in any club's success at the highest level.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is notorious for launching verbal attacks on his teammates on and off the field so perhaps Messi can be afforded this momentary loss of composure. However Vilanova needs resolve the tension and hope that the camaraderie between the two players is there for all to see.
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