No MSN, no Xavi, no Iniesta ... Messi left all alone at Barcelona

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Following the departure of Neymar and the injury to Luis Suarez, the Argentine is left searching for players to link up with an ordinary Blaugrana XI


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There was a joke that went around a few years ago. A young Messi is with a girl in the bedroom. Things are heating up and then, suddenly, he gets up and walks out of the room.

Moments later, he returns, flanked by another two little guys. “What are you doing?” the girl says, surprised. “I’m sorry,” he replies. “I just can’t do it without Xavi and Iniesta.”

It was often said in those early days that the Barcelona forward was only effective because of the brilliance of the two Spain midfielders and his comparitive struggles with Argentina were served up as proof. He couldn't do it all alone.

But now he has to. Messi has gone on to show everyone that he can be brilliant with or without Xavi, Iniesta and others, but like any other player, he also needs a support network around him in order to be successful in the very biggest games.

At Barca, Dani Alves was another with whom he built up an impressive understanding and over the past three years, he formed a trident with Neymar and Luis Suarez that was described by coach Luis Enrique as the finest in football history.

Messi all alone graphic

But that was then. After Neymar left to join Paris Saint-Germain in a shock move earlier this month, Messi was left looking for partners in crime in the second leg of the Spanish Supercopa away to Real Madrid on Wednesday. And they were not forthcoming.

Xavi moved on in 2015, Alves departed last year, Neymar is a PSG player now and Iniesta was out injured at the Bernabeu. Without them, Messi was reminiscent of Superman fighting against the effects of kryptonite, a comic-book hero stripped of his powers. Against Real Madrid, Messi wasn't Superman; he was Clark Kent.

With Suarez sidelined for four to five weeks after picking up a knee injury at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona are down to the bare bones before a ball has even been kicked in La Liga. And all of the weight of expectation will rest upon the shoulders of one man: Messi.

While Real Madrid have built a formidable squad that can not only survive but also thrive with or without Cristiano Ronaldo, thanks to an array of talent in reserve including Marco Asensio, Isco and others, Barca are now more reliant than ever upon their shining star. And it is too much to ask.

Lionel Messi Barcelona Lionel Messi Barcelona

"F**ked up day," Messi wrote on Instagram after the 3-1 defeat at home to Real Madrid on Sunday. "But we have to pick ourselves up and carry on. This is just starting."

Despite his best efforts and previous heroics at the Bernabeu, however, there was no famous night this time, and Messi cut a forlorn figure in the captain's armband at the scene of some of his most memorable moments as Barca went down 2-0 - and 5-1 on aggregate - on Wednesday.

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As he himself said, this is just the beginning and there are greater priorities than the Supercopa. Nevertheless, it was an ominous start to a season which is already looking like it will difficult for Barca up against a formidable Madrid side and with plenty of problems behind the scenes at the Catalan club.

One of those came to light after the Supercopa when it emerged that Messi still has not signed the new contract announced in July. Barcelona should have sorted all of that before the match-up with Madrid and, although the Catalans remain confident he will put pen to paper, they now need to sign some players who can help him compete with the very best.

Because at the moment, Messi has been left as the last man standing in this previously tremendous team - and even he cannot do it all alone.

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