What crosses your mind when you think of Messi? Is it him running rings around defenders, winning yet another Ballon d’Or award or lifting the Champions League trophy? What if you read the article title right, and, like me, you think that Lionel Messi may be the greatest choker ever? Shocking, isn’t it?
This article is a follow-up to a previous article where I suggested that Messi could be a choker. Now, six months later, I’m convinced he is. Before I get a barrage of insults from Argentinians and Barcelona fans, I’d like to start off by defining what **I** understand by a choker. For me, a choker is a player who, when the going gets tough, performs way below his personal average. Basically, the better you are, the higher the expectations will be for your performance in an important match, and if you do poorly, well, you’re a choker.
Messi has won cups: for example, he scored in both Champions League finals he played in and ended up lifting the cup. So how dare I imply that he’s a choker? Aren’t those important matches?
Rather than looking at what his teams have won, I am looking at when his team failed with him on the pitch, i.e. either lost a final or got eliminated from a two-legged encounter.
In fact, tomorrow marks exactly 7 years since Messi last scored in a top competition (Copa del Rey, Champions League, World Cup or Copa America) in a round where his team got eliminated. On 18th April 2007, a 19-year old Lionel Messi scored two goals as Barcelona ravaged Getafe 5-2 in the Copa del Rey semifinal 1st leg. Hardly a match where the going was tough, unlike the return leg where Getafe won 4-0 and Messi didn’t play. This, however, was the last time that Messi scored a goal in a round in which his team got eliminated.
Don’t believe it? See it for yourself in the table below listing only the matches in which he played and his team got eliminated, all 19 of them:
|Date||Competition||Stage||Opponent||At||Goals for||Goals against|
|27/2/2008||Copa del Rey||Semifinal||Valencia||H||1||1|
|23/4/2008||Champions League||Semifinal||Manchester United||H||0||0|
|29/4/2008||Champions League||Semifinal||Manchester United||A||0||1|
|5/1/2010||Copa del Rey||Last 16||Sevilla||H||1||2|
|13/1/2010||Copa del Rey||Last 16||Sevilla||A||1||0|
|20/4/2010||Champions League||Semifinal||Inter Milan||A||1||3|
|28/4/2010||Champions League||Semifinal||Inter Milan||H||1||0|
|20/4/2011||Copa del Rey||Final||Real Madrid||N||0||1|
|30/1/2013||Copa del Rey||Semifinal||Real Madrid||A||1||1|
|26/2/2013||Copa del Rey||Semifinal||Real Madrid||H||1||3|
|23/4/2013||Champions League||Semifinal||Bayern Munich||A||0||4|
|1/4/2014||Champions League||Quarterfinal||Atletico Madrid||H||1||1|
|9/4/2014||Champions League||Quarterfinal||Atletico Madrid||A||0||1|
|16/4/2014||Copa del Rey||Final||Real Madrid||N||1||2|
For a player who consistently scores between a half to a third (closer to a half, to be fair) of all his team’s goals it means that for every 1 to 2 goals by his teammates, he scores one himself. However, these statistics show us that, when the going got tough, Lionel Messi has failed to add a goal himself in response to any of his teammates’ 12 goals scored.
By his standard rates, Messi would have been expected to score around 10 goals which would have taken his team’s goal tally in these 19 matches from 12 to 22. Goals that would been quite likely to result in a more successful season for his teams, but, alas, the player considered by many as the best player of all time has fallen considerably short of the high expectations he set for himself.
He has set defences on fire, he’s won four Ballon d’Or awards and he’s left football fans in awe at his skills. For all his trickery and magic, however, Lionel Messi is perhaps the greatest choker of them all.
Share this article!