After Barcelona’s demoralizing 4-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal on Tuesday night, one thing has been slightly overlooked: Should Lionel Messi have played?
The Argentine forward hardly had an influence on the game, as the stats prove just how ineffective he was in the final third. Messi touched the ball 72 times, on average he has 76.4 touches per Champions League game, so not much of a change there.
However he averages 3.2 shots per UCL game with an average of 2 on target. Against Bayern he didn’t register a single shot. And usually he creates 1.7 chances per game, again he created 0 chances for his Barca teammates.
What does this all mean? Well, the man himself put it down to a bit of rustiness, and an incredible display from the German side.
“I’ve been out of competition for 15 days,” Messi said. “It was my first game back since the injury. But I couldn’t do much after the result we had. Such a pity, but we must go on.”
The incredible result has been deliberated in the press across Europe this morning, with many pointing out just how much fitter and sharper Munich looked all over the pitch, compared to their Spanish opponents. And Messi struggled to get involved as wave after wave of rampant Bayern attack swarmed towards Barcelona’s makeshift defense.
Tito Vilanova decided to call on the four-time world player of the year, but the managers decision may come under scrutiny in some quarters. However, if you have the worlds best player at your disposal and you are facing a huge European rival away from home, you simply have to play him. But it backfired for the Catalan club.
Now it will be incredibly interesting to see if Messi plays in La Liga in the next few weeks, or makes a hasty return to the treatment table.
Eight Premier League clubs among world’s Top 20 earners
The UEFA Champions League heavy list sees eight Premier League sides: United (1), Man City (5), Arsenal (7), Chelsea (8), Liverpool (9), Tottenham Hotspur (12), West Ham United (18), Leicester City (20).
Serie A is second with four clubs, while La Liga and Bundesliga have three clubs on the list. Ligue 1 (Paris Saint-Germain) and the Russian Premier League (Zenit Saint Petersburg) complete the group of 20.
The Associated Press’ stalwart reporter Rob Harris has this handy chart:
NEW: Manchester United are football's top moneymakers again after 11years with revenue of £515.3m/€689m. Complete Deloitte rankings (in £s) pic.twitter.com/jTC7khkruT
An incredible stat emerged at the weekend which stated that United has the worst “big chance” conversion rate in the whole of the Premier League. Stats company Opta state that United have had 37 big chances (this stat is described as “a situation where a player should be reasonably expected to score”) this season, converting just 12 of them at a ratio of 32.43 percent.
There is, however, a complication surrounding any deal as Atletico currently have a transfer ban and if their appeal falls through then the Spanish club won’t be able to buy or sell any players in the summer.
For United, 25-year-old Griezmann would be the major arrival at Old Trafford this summer and the report also suggests that Mourinho is eager to offload Luke Shaw this offseason, plus Memphis Depay will leave in January as Lyon’s pursuit continues.
Back to Griezmann though, and it is reported that United have been pursuing the diminutive striker since the summer when he stole the show at EURO 2016 as the top goalscorer in the tournament which saw the host nation France lose in the final to Portugal.
On paper, Griezmann would be a phenomenal buy for United. He is exactly what they’ve been missing this season.
Yes, Zlatan has been ruthless in recent weeks — 11 goals in his last 11 games in all competitions says as much — but he is 35 years old and can’t be expected to go on forever. He has also had bad moments in front of goal this season and when you look around United’s squad they have raw young talents in Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford but not much else, and certainly no clinical strikers like Griezmann.
When I think of United, I think of a team creating copious amounts of chances and with their direct play under Mourinho they have certainly missed plenty of “big chances” this season, dropping points after failing to finish teams off and drawing many games they should have won.
If Griezmann was at United this season he’d probably be leading the PL in goals scored. I’m sure of it. He is of the same ilk as a Javier Hernandez or Ole Gunnar Solksjaer, a lightning quick poacher who is cool in the box. Yet, Griezmann also offers more with his pace and creativity and that’s why United should break the bank to sign him this summer.
This season Griezmann has scored 12 goals in 25 appearance for an Atletico side battling back from adversity to position themselves in the La Liga title race once again. Over the course of his two-and-a-half seasons at the Vicente Calderon he has now scored 69 goals in 132 games in all competitions. Every step up he has made the striker has done it with ease.
For United to become title contenders and get back to the upper echeleons of Europe, Mourinho needs a predator in the box. Zlatan and Wayne Rooney are getting on and youngsters Martial and Rashford will take time to develop. With the likes of Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan putting chances on a plate for those in front of them, United’s fans must be salivating at the thought of seeing Griezmann in a red shirt.
If United go out and buy Griezmann this summer it will be yet another huge statement in their intent to be back among the elite.
“In the second half it was good, but then it became a bit static. We had a penalty, and 2-0, 3-0, 4-0 would have been OK, but 1-0 I’m fine with that. I was not too concerned for going through, but I thought ‘Oh my God another 30 minutes’, but it is all good, no extra-time, job done, let’s go home. As nice as it is here, we leave as early as possible, so all good.”
On a rare goal for Lucas Leiva, Klopp adds: “Every week in training we play old versus young and he is a top scorer for old, which is unbelievable.”
One thing to note: Liverpool has only scored multiple goals in one of its last six matches. Sure, two were young lineups, but they were also against League Two competitions (and one was a clean sheet).
Look for the Reds to break out soon, perhaps Saturday morning when Swansea City visits Anfield.