Completing the trident: Why they’ll line up for Barca

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The 2008-09 season was the year Lionel Messi’s numbers went from promising to gaudy, the Argentine wizard overtaking Samuel Eto'o and Thierry Henry for the team lead in goals.

Since then, he’s annually summited Barca’s goals table aside from Luis Suarez’s almost absurd 59-goal season in 2015-16. You have to say almost absurd because Messi has thrown up 50 or more goals five times, including an actually absurd 73.

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Here are Barca’s leading goal scorers the last nine seasons:

2008-09: Messi-38, Eto’o-36, Henry-26, Xavi-10, Bojan-10
2009-10: Messi-47, Pedro-23, Ibrahimovic-21, Bojan-12
2010-11: Messi-53, Villa-23, Pedro-22, Iniesta-9
2011-12: Messi-73, Fabregas-15, Sanchez-15, Xavi-14, Pedro-13
2012-13: Messi-60, Villa-16, Fabregas-13, Sanchez-8
2013-14: Messi-41, Alexis-19, Pedro-17, Fabregas-13, Neymar-12
2014-15: Messi-58, Neymar-39, Suarez-25, Pedro-11
2015-16: Suarez-59, Messi-41, Neymar-31, Rakitic-9
2016-17: Messi-54, Suarez-37, Neymar-20, Turan-13, Rakitic-9

So of the 30 top-scoring seasons in soccer history, Messi has three and Suarez has one. Cristiano Ronaldo has done it thrice as well, wo players have done it in Wales’ top flight, one in Estonia, and Mario Jardel scored 55 for Sporting CP in 2001-02. That’s it for this century.

All of that is a loooooong preamble to say the following: with Messi and Suarez still very much near the top of their games, the remaining tip of the trident is the most attractive spot in soccer.

So for those who might see how Liverpool’s started and wonder, “Maybe Coutinho is having second thoughts!”, or take a look at reports that Riyad Mahrez is fine as a “Plan B” despite being a former Premier League Player of the Year, and wonder why, here’s why: Any player who gets the chance to sit on the other side of that duo is going to bury at least 20 goals and have an experience few other players have had.

Even if the purported acrimony between Barca’s hierarchy and players is real, Messi isn’t leaving and Barca remains Barca.