We can’t leave Messi alone this time. The sole fact of having Leo puts us as Champions League favourites even without deserving it, but this is not enough. A functional team with Messi has a much greater advantage than a functional team without Messi, but we need to be functional in the first place.
Having the Argentinian has many positives and some negatives or limiting features too. The positives undoubtedly outweigh the negatives, but like any other player, Messi has a particular nature that needs to be compensated by the rest of the team. For example, Leo will not stay glued to the touchline, and he will never press as much as others. This means that we cannot place him as a right winger as he will not track back and, for instance, Bayern would have a big numerical advantage with the likes of Alphonso Davies, Thiago and Gnabry in the left side.
With Messi it isn’t about putting him in the team and letting him do his thing. It is about having a fully cohesive unit regardless of Leo’s particularities, and one in which he can shine without depending exclusively on him either. I am not sure Quique Setién has managed to create this balanced structure yet.
It is time the entire team steps up. While we should always wish for a Messi at his best, Barcelona should finally stop overrelying on his brilliance for the latter stages of the Champions League. Regardless of the number 10’s form, we will not progress or win the title only for him, so a collective improvement is needed.