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4-min read

Messi and Barcelona Have Lots to Do Before Season is Successful: Gaizka Mendieta

Gaizka Mendieta, a former Barcelona man, he played one season when they finished sixth in the title race, also believes that under the current system, the Argentine super star Messi is more influential than before.

Abhimanyu Sen | News18 Sports

Updated:March 12, 2018, 10:23 AM IST
Messi and Barcelona Have Lots to Do Before Season is Successful: Gaizka Mendieta
Former Valencia captain Gaizka Mendieta (Image: Gaizka Mendieta/Twitter)

New Delhi: It’s never over till the fat lady sings, is a very old adage that makes its presence felt every now and then in the world of sport. One of Spain’s more industrious midfielders Gaizka Mendieta, is someone who once was on the receiving end when he and the fabled team Valencia finished second best to the German giants Bayern Munich. Mendieta opened the scoring in both regulation time and in the penalty shootout for his side, but as luck would have it, it wasn’t enough, once again.

The former Spanish midfielder opines that La Liga trophy could still not be at the Nou Camp come the end of the season. “Barcelona under Ernesto Valverde had to adjust their game this year after Neymar left, which is of course a big void to fill. Even though Real Madrid is not in the vicinity, one cannot discount Atletico Madrid or the likes of Valencia and Sevilla who can hurt Lionel Messi and co,” he says over the telephone.

Barcelona was without Messi only recently as he was away celebrating fatherhood for the third time, but they had no trouble getting past Malaga on the road. Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho had enough firepower. Normally, pundits or opponents would not expect to see the Catalan giants throw it away at this stage.

“With the UEFA Champions League and the King's Cup still to go, the games will come thick and fast, Barcelona must pace themselves out on the final stretch,” says the former rock star who given the looks, would surely fit the frame.

“This is the toughest part of the full season, and when you are a club like Barcelona or Real Madrid not winning trophies is considered criminal.”

The former Barcelona man, he played one season when they finished sixth in the title race, also believes that under the current system, the Argentine super star Messi is more influential than before.

“Since the start of the season, Messi has moved to a more central role in attack and that sees him influence games a lot more than before. The numbers are there for everyone to see,” says the former midfielder who has also tried his hand at plying his trade in England with Middlesbrough.

Mendieta is one of Valencia’s most celebrated players as he captained them to two Champions League finals on the bounce. The Mestalla did not see the joy of celebrating with what is considered the Holy Grail in European football.

When quizzed about the fate of his former employers, Mendieta recalls his debut for Valencia against Deportivo La Coruna, another of Spain’s former giants.

“It was a special moment in my life when I debuted for Valencia.”

This is a man, who almost did not have his own chapter in Spanish footballing folklore. Mendieta began playing football in his mid-teens and was an athlete till then, breaking regional records before his father, also a footballer, Andres Mendieta saved the day for the Mestalla faithful.

“It was not good to see Valencia not perform well in the recent years but to see them perform to the capacity they are doing now is great.”

“It is fantastic to know that after a gap of about three seasons, Valencia is going to be back among Europe’s elite. Not only is it good for the club, but it is also good for La Liga,” Mendieta opined.

“The more the competition in the country the better for the sport and then eventually the national team.”

A playmaker of immense quality, Mendieta’s job through his professional footballing days was all about playing the likes of Claudio Lopez or a Pablo Aimar or Juan Sanchez into goal scoring positions.

Like most he though is baffled with what has been going on in the attacking third of one of his arch-rivals, Real Madrid, the feared troika of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo has not been firing on all cylinders this season.

“Unfathomable – there is just no solid explanation as to why such estabilished and skillful strikers have been so below par,” says Mendieta.

According to him, one of the things that Los Blancos have done wrong is the not look at the bench strength of the squad.

“Players such as a James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata would walk into any starting line-up, even Marco Asensio.”

Rodriguez, one of the stars of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil has moved onto greener pastures in Germany with Bayern Munich, while Morata calls Stamford Bridge home. Asensio, under the tutelage of the great Zinedine Zidane is taking big strides in his development.

“Madrid is doing extremely well in the Champions League, but they are in a delicate situation and the squad needs to stick together. Like Barca, the pressure to win is humungous, if not more,” he signed off.

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| Edited by: Abhimanyu Sen
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