Lionel Messi

Pocho

Gayer than Marcosdeto (according to Marcos, who sh
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Messages
978
He'd be a nightmare for the West Hams of this world.
Don´t know about that, he do well against the PL bigs.
 

giorno

Full Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2016
Messages
17,626
Supports
Real Madrid
Well of course, Ronaldo didn't cause the problems exactly by being Ronaldo, but by being one of the most expensive and well paid players in the world. By signing him, they decided to put up with below par midfield, they shut out Dybala and practically turned themselves into one-man team, weaker than they were before.
Dybala was literally the serie A best player last season, and have a look at the contracts of Rabiot, De Ligt, Ramsey and Arthur...
 

VanKenny

New Member
Newbie
Joined
Apr 3, 2019
Messages
215
I’ll agree with that.
I watched him last night and he mostly stood still or walked, hardly even jogged all game.
He keeps his goals up by virtue of the whole Barca team being built around him. It has to be that way because Barca pay him a ridiculous amount and they need him to balance that by taking the money they get from the sponsors just because Messi remains their ‘star’ player.
IMO if they dropped Messi and played as a team - pressing like Barca used to do (but can’t do with a sedentary Messi stood waiting for ball to feet) then they’d be special again.
The Barca problem is that if they drop Messi they still pay the Messi salary but the Messi stats go downhill and they diminish the value of the Messi brand (maybe bigger than the Barca brand?) that brings in the commercial partnerships.
And they haven’t got a pot to piss in so they need every penny.
IMO it’s a classic catch 22 . . and you’re absolutely spot on because, with his cost on the payroll, we’d need to shape our team around a Messi who should really be looking towards a few years as a celebrity player in the MLS.
No ta eh?!
You need to actually watch Barcelona and Messi then. There is a reason why every coach centers his play around Messi.

Do you know how many times has Messi come from the bench to save Barcelona? Most of the times they rest him and make him a sub, the team struggles until he gets on the pitch and scores, assists, etc.
 

Pocho

Gayer than Marcosdeto (according to Marcos, who sh
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Messages
978
You need to actually watch Barcelona and Messi then. There is a reason why every coach centers his play around Messi.

Do you know how many times has Messi come from the bench to save Barcelona? Most of the times they rest him and make him a sub, the team struggles until he gets on the pitch and scores, assists, etc.
" He keeps his goals up by virtue of the whole Barca team being built around him." This part is serious? It's funny
 

HerbT

New Member
Newbie
Joined
Feb 13, 2021
Messages
24
Supports
man city fc
You need to actually watch Barcelona and Messi then. There is a reason why every coach centers his play around Messi.

Do you know how many times has Messi come from the bench to save Barcelona? Most of the times they rest him and make him a sub, the team struggles until he gets on the pitch and scores, assists, etc.
That’s because the team has been built around him for many years now. There’s only 1 Messi and he’s getting old so they need to move on and rebuild but they can’t because Messi is so central to what they are.
Which president could dare to lose Messi in a club where the fans vote and the fans love MessI? Which president would dare risk the wrath of their commercial sponsors especially in hard times and with Messi to pay?
He was a colossus in his day and he’s still a world class player now, but only when he has the ball.

In his pomp he glided, step, step, step then little short sprints, pulled defences out of shape, wore out man on man markers, made space for and delivered sublime assist passes to team mates. He had boundless energy, he took football to a new level and he still has all the skills he had then and more, but his battery is shot so he needs everyone around him to work to help him do what he used to do by his own singular effort. That demand taxes the rest of the team as they increasing concentrate their play on keeping Messi’s stats up.

I also agree entirely with your thoughts on the great man as an impact substitute. Impact sub is the perfect role for Messi nowadays because, as I mentioned, his battery is shot. As an impact sub for 30 minutes each game he’d be truly, amazingly awesome.
But would he want to be an impact sub and can your other star players swallow you paying an impact sub twice what that get paid for running their bollox off for 95 minutes twice a week?
 

Daysleeper

Full Member
Joined
Sep 25, 2014
Messages
2,733
Supports
Barcelona
He's just not that big a threat in games where his team doesn't have a territorial and possession advantage.
And by the same token Ronaldo doesn't look as good when he doesn't get the service and is isolated, as an example. If Messi comes to the PL, it'll be to City where he will run riot.
 

Pocho

Gayer than Marcosdeto (according to Marcos, who sh
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Messages
978
He's just not that big a threat in games where his team doesn't have a territorial and possession advantage.
He needs to play in a team where the defence doesn't get raped by opponents each time it's being attacked, not that difficult
 

RooneyLegend

Full Member
Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
11,003
He needs to play in a team where the defence doesn't get raped by opponents each time it's being attacked, not that difficult
He's not exactly covering himself in glory In those games either.
And by the same token Ronaldo doesn't look as good when he doesn't get the service and is isolated, as an example. If Messi comes to the PL, it'll be to City where he will run riot.
Not against big teams that play high pressure football he won't. He'll roast the negative sides that I'd agree with.
 

DWelbz19

Correctly predicted Portugal to win Euro 2016
Joined
Oct 31, 2012
Messages
22,491
He's just not that big a threat in games where his team doesn't have a territorial and possession advantage.
Do City ever not have that in the PL, though? Outside of the games against Liverpool, and maybe us at OT.
 

Zen

Full Member
Joined
Aug 11, 2008
Messages
11,498
He's not exactly covering himself in glory In those games either.

Not against big teams that play high pressure football he won't. He'll roast the negative sides that I'd agree with.
Why wouldn't he do well against the big teams that City are already smacking? If anything, he'd have absurd assist numbers because the massive concentration on him opens up well, everyone else, a luxury he doesn't currently have.... but he'd take over pen and FK duties, so goals would add up anyway.

Utd or Liverpool or Chelsea.... then yeah, theres issues. As there would be at PSG - especially at CL level, Mbappe-Messi-Neymar creates similar issues to MSN. M&N being past the level they were in MSN too.

City are becoming more tailor made for his arrival by the week.
 

RooneyLegend

Full Member
Joined
May 3, 2013
Messages
11,003
Do City ever not have that in the PL, though? Outside of the games against Liverpool, and maybe us at OT.
The wont have it against Chelsea from here on in given how Tuchel sets up. Point is they really don't have a problem against those sides even without him. Playing a low block against City these days is basically ceding 3 points. As it has been whenever they've been on form during Peps time.

What they do need is to find a way to deal with they big teams in the CL who all play high pressure football hence transition football is where it's at against them. He wouldn't improve that aspect of their play .
 

DWelbz19

Correctly predicted Portugal to win Euro 2016
Joined
Oct 31, 2012
Messages
22,491
The wont have it against Chelsea from here on in given how Tuchel sets up. Point is they really don't have a problem against those sides even without him. Playing a low block against City these days is basically ceding 3 points. As it has been whenever they've been on form during Peps time.

What they do need is to find a way to deal with they big teams in the CL who all play high pressure football hence transition football is where it's at against them. He wouldn't improve that aspect of their play .
Yeah I don’t disagree with that. I think if he moves to City he’ll end up with sort of 30-40 G/A’s in just as many matches, but similar-ish sorts of performances in the CL as he’s doing for Barcelona in the past 3 seasons or so.
 

wr8_utd

:'(
Joined
Apr 22, 2008
Messages
35,082
He's just not that big a threat in games where his team doesn't have a territorial and possession advantage.
If he comes to the PL it'll be for City so he's going to be at one of the two best teams in the League and one that is several levels above Barcelona right now. He'll do well.
 

Oly Francis

Full Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2018
Messages
863
Supports
PSG
There's a lot of people who don't understand how big a liability Messi's off the ball behaviour is. It's impossible for Barcelona to press high because Griezmann is the only one trying (up front) to do something on defense and it allows the oppenent to build their attacks the way they want to. In modern football, you can't defend properly if one of your player walks 95% of the game, it's that simple. That's the reason I do'nt want him at PSG, we'd be totally unbalanced since Mbappé can sometimes be pretty lazy as well.
 

Paddy B

New Member
Newbie
Joined
Oct 19, 2020
Messages
45
Supports
Manchester City
And by the same token Ronaldo doesn't look as good when he doesn't get the service and is isolated, as an example. If Messi comes to the PL, it'll be to City where he will run riot.
I think you may be right about Messi doing well if he goes to City and your point about service is spot on. You'd think he must flourish with the likes of KDB, Gundogan, Bernardo and Mahrez supplying the passes. It would be so interesting and intriguing to see how he would do in the PL.
 

Shamana

Not Shamans
Joined
Feb 20, 2019
Messages
3,673
I think you may be right about Messi doing well if he goes to City and your point about service is spot on. You'd think he must flourish with the likes of KDB, Gundogan, Bernardo and Mahrez supplying the passes. It would be so interesting and intriguing to see how he would do in the PL.
I kind of feel how he might to in the PL at 34 is a bit different than how peak Messi might have done in the PL. He's still a great player, but it would have been more interesting to see how he would have done in the PL at the peak of his powers instead of now, where he simply isnt the same player anymore.
 

Zehner

Full Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2018
Messages
3,431
Location
Germany
Supports
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
I kind of feel how he might to in the PL at 34 is a bit different than how peak Messi might have done in the PL. He's still a great player, but it would have been more interesting to see how he would have done in the PL at the peak of his powers instead of now, where he simply isnt the same player anymore.
I don't think he's too different from the player he was three years ago. It's been quite a while since Messi relied on pace and acceleration or other attributes that regress half way into one's thirties. His finishing was the one thing which was bad this season but he got that right in recent games. Barca is simply a really, really bad team right now.
 

Zehner

Full Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2018
Messages
3,431
Location
Germany
Supports
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
There's a lot of people who don't understand how big a liability Messi's off the ball behaviour is. It's impossible for Barcelona to press high because Griezmann is the only one trying (up front) to do something on defense and it allows the oppenent to build their attacks the way they want to. In modern football, you can't defend properly if one of your player walks 95% of the game, it's that simple. That's the reason I do'nt want him at PSG, we'd be totally unbalanced since Mbappé can sometimes be pretty lazy as well.
I think the perception of Messi's pressing game is highly influenced by his body language and the fact that they show his low distances at every given opportunity. He is picky with his pressuring but if he chooses to do so actually quite good. He has more interceptions, tackles and ball recoveries per 90 than for example Mbappe and Lewandowski.

City's counter pressing and application of Guardiola's six seconds rule could still fit to him pretty well. His work rate hasn't really changed since Pep's Barcelona days and for what it's worth they are still the benchmark for top teams in terms of counter pressing and positional play. If it worked back then, it can work now.
 

Oly Francis

Full Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2018
Messages
863
Supports
PSG
I think the perception of Messi's pressing game is highly influenced by his body language and the fact that they show his low distances at every given opportunity. He is picky with his pressuring but if he chooses to do so actually quite good. He has more interceptions, tackles and ball recoveries per 90 than for example Mbappe and Lewandowski.

City's counter pressing and application of Guardiola's six seconds rule could still fit to him pretty well. His work rate hasn't really changed since Pep's Barcelona days and for what it's worth they are still the benchmark for top teams in terms of counter pressing and positional play. If it worked back then, it can work now.
Yeah, I think you can call that picky...


High press isn't really about tackles or recovered balls, attackers usually do that so the oppenent throws a bad pass and allows a ball recovery from another player. It doesn't really show in the stats (even if Mbappé is often lazy as well).
 

MalcolmTucker

Full Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2014
Messages
1,612
Yeah, I think you can call that picky...


High press isn't really about tackles or recovered balls, attackers usually do that so the oppenent throws a bad pass and allows a ball recovery from another player. It doesn't really show in the stats (even if Mbappé is often lazy as well).
Is he meant to be pressing all 5 players? His man is Marquinhos. I'm sure there are examples of Messi not pressing and being lazy from that match but this is a terrible clip to showcase it.

This season, he has actually pressed pretty well under Koeman, but he definitely walks between bursts of it. If you put him in the City team, he will be getting 30+ goals and they will comfortably win the league.
 

Oly Francis

Full Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2018
Messages
863
Supports
PSG
Is he meant to be pressing all 5 players? His man is Marquinhos. I'm sure there are examples of Messi not pressing and being lazy from that match but this is a terrible clip to showcase it.

This season, he has actually pressed pretty well under Koeman, but he definitely walks between bursts of it. If you put him in the City team, he will be getting 30+ goals and they will comfortably win the league.
What is obvious here is that Barcelona's defense is set so Messi doesn't have to press. I think you gravely underestimate how harmful it is for any team's balance to have someone who's walking that often off the ball. At one point he just bows his head and give up (even if he can still do one of his magic trick when the ball is in his feet).

It actually took months to Guardiola in order to balance his team with mostly hard working players, i highly doubt it will be that seamless if Messi joins.
 

MalcolmTucker

Full Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2014
Messages
1,612
What is obvious here is that Barcelona's defense is set so Messi doesn't have to press. I think you gravely underestimate how harmful it is for any team's balance to have someone who's walking that often off the ball. At one point he just bows his head and give up (even if he can still do one of his magic trick when the ball is in his feet).

It actually took months to Guardiola in order to balance his team with mostly hard working players, i highly doubt it will be that seamless if Messi joins.
Watch City next game and see how much pressing their false 9 does.
 

Oly Francis

Full Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2018
Messages
863
Supports
PSG
https://www.sport.es/es/noticias/barca/messi-crack-defendiendo-11529847

Nice stats for those who complain about Messi not pressing rivals.
Those stats are pretty meaningless though, you can't compare a 20m sprint to press like most strikers do (even if Mbappé is truely lazy most of the time) to what Messi does lower on the pitch. Griezmann is the one pressing the defenders most of the time for Barcelona while Messi stays behind and presses midfielders.

Salah actually has the same kind of profile and presses 365 times when Messi only does 209 times.

Also, you're supposed to increase your intensity in CL and obviously it didn't happen yesterday.
 

United Junkie

New Member
Newbie
Joined
Apr 22, 2018
Messages
249
Young explosive Messi certainly ran and pressed like hell.
That was Messi in the Rijkaard era trying too prove himself to the big ones like Ronaldinho, Eto-o, Deco etc... After that In the Guardiola era he was just taking a walk. And to be honest it didn't do Barca any harm at all his walking around.
 

Pocho

Gayer than Marcosdeto (according to Marcos, who sh
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Messages
978
Those stats are pretty meaningless though, you can't compare a 20m sprint to press like most strikers do (even if Mbappé is truely lazy most of the time) to what Messi does lower on the pitch. Griezmann is the one pressing the defenders most of the time for Barcelona while Messi stays behind and presses midfielders.

Salah actually has the same kind of profile and presses 365 times when Messi only does 209 times.

Also, you're supposed to increase your intensity in CL and obviously it didn't happen yesterday.
Messi has the ball in his foot like no other, you can't have it both ways, obviously he has to choose when to press, he can barely choose when to have the ball cause Barcelona's attack without him is shite
 

Oly Francis

Full Member
Joined
Oct 3, 2018
Messages
863
Supports
PSG
Messi has the ball in his foot like no other, you can't have it both ways, obviously he has to choose when to press, he can barely choose when to have the ball cause Barcelona's attack without him is shite
Some players are great with the ball in their foot (even if Messi is better when he's in a good day, which is maybe 50% of the time this season compared to his usual standards) and still defend. Salah was like that 2 years ago, KdB, Modric in his prime, Messi until 4 or 5 years ago etc. Team balance is necessary at the highest level, all the recent CL champions were very balanced.
 

Pocho

Gayer than Marcosdeto (according to Marcos, who sh
Joined
Jun 13, 2006
Messages
978
Some players are great with the ball in their foot (even if Messi is better when he's in a good day, which is maybe 50% of the time this season compared to his usual standards) and still defend. Salah was like that 2 years ago, KdB, Modric in his prime, Messi until 4 or 5 years ago etc. Team balance is necessary at the highest level, all the recent CL champions were very balanced.
As good as all of them are none of them touches the ball that much and gets the rival's pressure as Messi does.
 

Son

New Member
Newbie
Joined
Apr 24, 2019
Messages
497
Wonder what's next for him?

He's clearly no longer the best player in the world.

I'm not even sure why City would reshape their entire team to sign him when he's clearly past his best.
I’m pretty sure he is the best player in the world both statistically and in reality.

Kevin De Byrne for example it is true created more this season for his team (so has Bruno) but if Messi played for City that would be reversed very quickly. Messi also scores many more goals than KDB obviously from just as deep making his stats better overall anyways in a worse team.

Lewandowski while a great goalscorer is not well rounded enough to be as important plus only has a handful more than Messi this season anyways for example.

This leaves Neymar. Wonderful talent but no. Mbappe doesn’t count despite his hattrick not the same level never will be.

So yeah Messi is still number 1 right now.

Who is better?
 

RashyForPM

Full Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2020
Messages
2,577
I’m pretty sure he is the best player in the world both statistically and in reality.

Kevin De Byrne for example it is true created more this season for his team (so has Bruno) but if Messi played for City that would be reversed very quickly. Messi also scores many more goals than KDB obviously from just as deep making his stats better overall anyways in a worse team.

Lewandowski while a great goalscorer is not well rounded enough to be as important plus only has a handful more than Messi this season anyways for example.

This leaves Neymar. Wonderful talent but no. Mbappe doesn’t count despite his hattrick not the same level never will be.

So yeah Messi is still number 1 right now.

Who is better?
The excuses here are remarkable. Lewandowski, Cristiano, Neymar, Mbappe, Bruno, KdB, Haaland and Kimmich are all better players than Messi and have been since Setien took over Barcelona.

Best excuse is ‘Mbappe doesn’t count despite scoring a hat-trick in a game against Messi’s team at Messi’s stadium while Messi spent 90 minutes doing absolutely nothing aside from scoring a good pen.’ That one really takes the cake. Also, why would Messi out create Bruno if he played for us when he can’t do it at Barcelona? Love how you left out Cristiano as well.
 

Zehner

Full Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2018
Messages
3,431
Location
Germany
Supports
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
The excuses here are remarkable. Lewandowski, Cristiano, Neymar, Mbappe, Bruno, KdB, Haaland and Kimmich are all better players than Messi and have been since Setien took over Barcelona.

Best excuse is ‘Mbappe doesn’t count despite scoring a hat-trick in a game against Messi’s team at Messi’s stadium while Messi spent 90 minutes doing absolutely nothing aside from scoring a good pen.’ That one really takes the cake. Also, why would Messi out create Bruno if he played for us when he can’t do it at Barcelona? Love how you left out Cristiano as well.
His point is, drop Messi in any of these teams and he's instantly the best player. Which means that the reason for his "underperformances" is that he's playing with a set of players who only with much good will can be described as a "bad team". And I agree with that. There's no way any player would perform better than Messi does in current Barcelona. And he'd be levels ahead anybody else if he played for Bayern, Juventus or City.

If he goes to City in the summer, he'll prove that much. Honestly, who still watches him regularly or even from time to time sees that he still pulls off stuff nobody else is capable of with such consistency.
 

RashyForPM

Full Member
Joined
Jun 25, 2020
Messages
2,577
His point is, drop Messi in any of these teams and he's instantly the best player. Which means that the reason for his "underperformances" is that he's playing with a set of players who only with much good will can be described as a "bad team". And I agree with that. There's no way any player would perform better than Messi does in current Barcelona. And he'd be levels ahead anybody else if he played for Bayern, Juventus or City.

If he goes to City in the summer, he'll prove that much. Honestly, who still watches him regularly or even from time to time sees that he still pulls off stuff nobody else is capable of with such consistency.
Just to get this clear mate, I’m in absolutely no doubt that Messi is still a world class player. 2008-2017 Messi has a case for being the GOAT. That probably won’t change until the day he retires. And if you put him in a team like Bayern, , City orJuventus (not PSG because Neymar and Mbappe will still be better, nor us because he isn’t outperforming Bruno’s stats), he would be the best player on the pitch against Hertha, WBA, Crotone and the like. He’ll dribble past people, make loads of assists and top score in the league.

My point is, since Setien took over, Messi has been absolutely shocking in the big games, bar the one against Napoli. Real, Atletico, Bayern, PSG, Sevilla, Bilbao in the cup, Juve; utterly ineffectual. If you put pre-Setien Messi into those games, Barca would have won most. No doubt. He can hammer Alaves, Huesca etc, but I honestly couldn’t care less if the likes of Lewandowski, Mbappe, Kimmich, KdB, Bruno etc are more effective in the big games these days. We might as well start arguing Lukaku’s case as the best player in the world, or any plodder who top scores in the Eredivisie, Primeira Liga or SPL.
 

Eddy_JukeZ

Full Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2012
Messages
12,079
I don't see any argument for Messi still being the best player in the world and I'm one of his biggest fans. He's my favorite ever player.

He is a non-factor in the big games nowadays.

Ever since Valverde was sacked, he has declined a good amount.
 

Zehner

Full Member
Joined
Mar 29, 2018
Messages
3,431
Location
Germany
Supports
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Just to get this clear mate, I’m in absolutely no doubt that Messi is still a world class player. That probably won’t change until the day he retires. And if you put him in a team like Bayern, , City orJuventus (not PSG because Neymar and Mbappe will still be better, nor us because he isn’t outperforming Bruno’s stats), he would be the best player on the pitch against Hertha, WBA, Crotone and the like. He’ll dribble past people, make loads of assists and top score in the league.

My point is, since Setien took over, Messi has been absolutely shocking in the big games, bar the one against Napoli. Real, Atletico, Bayern, PSG, Sevilla, Bilbao in the cup, Juve; utterly ineffectual. If you put pre-Setien Messi into those games, Barca would have won most. No doubt. He can hammer Alaves, Huesca etc, but I honestly couldn’t care less if the likes of Lewandowski, Mbappe, Kimmich, KdB, Bruno etc are more effective in the big games these days. We might as well start arguing Lukaku’s case as the best player in the world, or any plodder who top scores in the Eredivisie, Primeira Liga or SPL.
Have you seen Mbappe and Neymar against Bayern? Mbappe vs. Barca is like his first good big game performance in ages and one could even argue Barca doesn't even deserve to be called a real challenge anymore.

If your team is being outplayed, every player looks bad. It's the nature of the game. Put Messi in a team that is able to play on eye level with other world class teams, he'll look better in no time. It's not like he can't dribble past those defenders anymore. And even if that was the case, he would still score a shit load. The reason he only scores against Alaves and co. is that these days Barca is clearly second best in every big match up they have.

If you watch him, you'll notice he's still the best dribbler, final third passer and finisher in the game. And yes, he is better in the latter department than Bruno. He plays through balls nobody else does and does so with overall better passing stats than Fernandes. Your perception is coined by his team's performances I believe and I guess you'll be in for a huge surprise if he really joins City. There'll be no discussion who the best player in the league is if that happens. Messi hasn't played in such a well drilled side since Pep days.
 

MalcolmTucker

Full Member
Joined
Jul 14, 2014
Messages
1,612
Just to get this clear mate, I’m in absolutely no doubt that Messi is still a world class player. 2008-2017 Messi has a case for being the GOAT. That probably won’t change until the day he retires. And if you put him in a team like Bayern, , City orJuventus (not PSG because Neymar and Mbappe will still be better, nor us because he isn’t outperforming Bruno’s stats), he would be the best player on the pitch against Hertha, WBA, Crotone and the like. He’ll dribble past people, make loads of assists and top score in the league.

My point is, since Setien took over, Messi has been absolutely shocking in the big games, bar the one against Napoli. Real, Atletico, Bayern, PSG, Sevilla, Bilbao in the cup, Juve; utterly ineffectual. If you put pre-Setien Messi into those games, Barca would have won most. No doubt. He can hammer Alaves, Huesca etc, but I honestly couldn’t care less if the likes of Lewandowski, Mbappe, Kimmich, KdB, Bruno etc are more effective in the big games these days. We might as well start arguing Lukaku’s case as the best player in the world, or any plodder who top scores in the Eredivisie, Primeira Liga or SPL.
Messi was MOTM against Juve this season despite them losing 0-3.

Messi definitely has declined but I think a lot of people will be surprised if he does move next season. If he goes to City he will be the best player in the league, unfortunately.
 

RedRonaldo

Full Member
Joined
Aug 17, 2003
Messages
12,022
Have you seen Mbappe and Neymar against Bayern? Mbappe vs. Barca is like his first good big game performance in ages and one could even argue Barca doesn't even deserve to be called a real challenge anymore.

If your team is being outplayed, every player looks bad. It's the nature of the game. Put Messi in a team that is able to play on eye level with other world class teams, he'll look better in no time. It's not like he can't dribble past those defenders anymore. And even if that was the case, he would still score a shit load. The reason he only scores against Alaves and co. is that these days Barca is clearly second best in every big match up they have.

If you watch him, you'll notice he's still the best dribbler, final third passer and finisher in the game. And yes, he is better in the latter department than Bruno. He plays through balls nobody else does and does so with overall better passing stats than Fernandes. Your perception is coined by his team's performances I believe and I guess you'll be in for a huge surprise if he really joins City. There'll be no discussion who the best player in the league is if that happens. Messi hasn't played in such a well drilled side since Pep days.
Well one could also argue, in past 2 season or so, even Barca as a team is getting weak, Messi still able to carry them to challenge for trophies. You can’t say the same this season. He is still the best from this Barca team, and maybe still among top 5 players in the world even just base on this season form, but he could no longer carry this Barca team to challenge for any trophies. His finishing is abit off, and strangely he no longer has high assist numbers this season. Fair enough his dribbling is still there and he still performs better than most.