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It'll take more than just Messi to keep up with this Madrid

The game last night ended agonisingly thanks to the genius of Messi. He won the foul, and then duly put ball where only cobwebs lie. Before that he had smashed one against the post, and even before that he provoked a penalty claim when Bruno’s flailing hand deflected his shot. Iglesias Villanueva did not see it, causing new irritation among the Barcelonistas that would not be placated by a later (non-penalised) Mascherano handball. Barça have reason to feel hard done by after yesterday's game, but there is something else too.

Messi's 'work of art' against Villarreal

No team behind Messi

That something else is that behind Lionel Messi there is no team. In it there are some good, even excellent players: Iniesta, of course, and Neymar, who creates danger, but finishes badly. There is the insistent percussion of Luis Suárez, too, although he looks out of shape. There’s also Piqué, of course, the rock. But the rest pales in comparison. There’s will, but no wiliness, tired players like Busquets, reinforcements that do not reinforce, because they are either too comfortable or too inexperienced. More and more often we see games like that, in which Barça only solve what Messi solves. Yesterday, for example: a goal; a shot against the post; an unawarded penalty; all through him. The rest of the team just makes up the numbers.

Real Madrid are proving to be a better all-round team this season

The difference between Barça and Madrid...

That is what makes the difference between Madrid and Barça, and that difference is becoming more and more visible in the table. Zidane has a team, a lot of players who contribute, a whole squad which does so even. He no longer depends on the BBC. Barça have a good, but tired first eleven, which is seen routinely in their game. And then, to Messi. Last night Barça could have won...through Messi. They drew…through Messi. Like in Sevilla, they turned the game around through Messi. But it will take something more than a single player, albeit a great one, to keep up with this Madrid of Zidane, who has achieved a formidable power.