Lionel Messi may just be the greatest ever player to lace on the boots, but this hasn’t stopped some fans questioning his form after an unusual scoring drought.
Barcelona were fortunate to escape with three points against Real Betis in an exciting match that ended 3-2 and saw two red cards.
Even though Messi recorded three assists, one was breathtaking, he failed to score yet again in the tight contest.
While Messi’s standards area an echelon above any other footballer on earth, the maestro has now failed to put the ball in the back of the net in his last 26 shots.
Experts and fans were quick to point out Messi has seemed off in front of goal, despite still carrying a rather lacklustre Barcelona team.
Weird phenomenon: Messi can no longer score. Very strange. Just replicated last year’s goal at Betis... only this one didn’t go in (just like his last 26 shots).— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) February 9, 2020
Messi can't score any more but has five assists in two games so 💁♀️— Rik Sharma (@riksharma_) February 9, 2020
Messi is going through hard time in Barcelona right now......— MARADONA 👑👑 (@Richard7th) February 9, 2020
Can u imagine he grabbed a hat trick of assist tonight....
So bad he lacking in front of goals but as far as the team wins he's happy...........
I can proudly say messi is my GOAT in anywhere anytime.. pic.twitter.com/FPz44S0XTq
A good performance from Messi overall. 2 assists, 1 of which was a genius pass— Sam Tighe (@stighefootball) February 2, 2020
But 10 shots, 0 goals. After 11 shots, 0 goals vs. Valencia (Scored 2 in cup btwn the games)
Hesitant tonight, some soft attempts, lots of extra, unnecessary touches. Something to worry about or not?
Messi, by his lofty standards, is having a subpar start to the year. But, boy, he's still streets ahead of the regular AM with his assists & chances creation plus 20+ shots on targets in the last few games. Class is permanent. https://t.co/syMsc1P4Bz— Tolúwalàṣe (@AkoredeNate) February 9, 2020
Something else to remember, how often was Messi carrying the team, having to score a FK, or an amazing shot outside the box or dribble 5 and score or assist. So far w/ Setien it hasn't been the case, Messi has been a little off yet the team is playing well and others are scoring— Joe Thomas (@joebt18) February 9, 2020
Praise was reserved for Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer for yet again recording a hat-trick of assists for the fourth time in his career.
🎯 09’ Assist— SPORF (@Sporf) February 9, 2020
🎯 45’ Assist
🎯 72’ Assist
🎩 4th career assist hat-trick.
🤩 Messi doing Messi things. pic.twitter.com/Qk3v6A2K4V
Barcelona and Madrid win
In a thrilling clash at the Benito Villamarin, Sergio Canales sent Betis ahead from the penalty spot after Clement Lenglet's handball, but Frenkie de Jong levelled after a fine Lionel Messi pass.
Nabil Fekir restored Betis's lead with a low drive but Sergio Busquets converted after Barca captain Messi found him with a free-kick on the stroke of halftime.
Argentine maestro Messi's free-kick set up Lenglet for the winning goal with a towering header from the defender.
Fekir was dismissed for two yellow cards in the space of a few seconds and Lenglet received his second booking minutes later as both teams ended the game with 10 men.
Real Madrid also came from behind to thrash Osasuna 4-1 and maintain their place at the top of Spain's La Liga.
A lone Raul de Tomas earned bottom-side Espanyol their first home win of the campaign against 18th-placed Real Mallorca while Celta Vigo are out of the drop zone after a Pione Sisto goal in stoppage time earned them a 2-1 comeback win over fifth-placed Sevilla.
Real Sociedad beat Athletic Bilbao 2-1 in a Basque derby to move up to sixth and the second Europa League spot.
Osasuna took the lead against Real through Unai Garcia's header after 14 minutes but the impressive Isco volleyed home and Sergio Ramos headed in from close range to send the visitors to the break in the lead.
Substitutes Lucas Vazquez and Luka Jovic wrapped up the win for Zinedine Zidane's side with late goals
"In the end it was a very, very difficult game at a place it's really hard to play at, they made it tough for us today but we did it," Zidane said.
"We defended well and we controlled their strengths well, we're in a good moment and the players made chances to score (so) we got four goals at a difficult ground, to take the three points."