Messi has been in fantastic form this season and was instrumental to Barcelona’s victory over arch-rivals Real Madrid at the Bernabeu yesterday.
Former Arsenal and Barca man Thiery Henry suggested that Messi has benefited from Neymar leaving the Camp Nou as it allows the likes of Jordi Alba to improve their understanding with the Argentine.
Neymar and Messi had developed a tremendous partnership during their time together at the Camp Nou before Neymar left for PSG. There was belief that Barcelona will struggle this season without the Brazilian manning the left-hand side of the pitch.
Barca brought in talented Frenchman Osmane Dembele to replace the Brazil star but he has been unavailable due to an injury since September. Henry believes that circumstances have allowed Barca left-back Jordi to thrive.
“Neymar, we’re talking about one of the best in the world by a distance,” Henry said.
“But because he’s not there anymore, that frees space for Jordi Alba.
Without a true winger on the left side, Alba was able to burst forward and use his pace to great advantage this season. The left-back has already assisted Lionel Messi five times this season. With Neymar absent, Iniesta was able to assert his qualities more effectively on the pitch as he drifted to the left side of the pitch during yesterday’s Clasico.
“So he [Alba] can make those runs, he can overlap, he can make the runs inside and from Leo playing that ball over the top for him,” Henry added.
“That would have been Neymar getting those balls before and trying to dribble and maybe at times not waiting for the full-back to overlap.
“But now it’s Jordi Alba because you don’t have the winger because Neymar went and Dembele’s not here.
"So you don’t have a winger that stays high and wide so suddenly you have space to run into and we all know that Jordi Alba loves that.”
Due to Alba’s overlapping runs, Barca were able to curve Real Madrid open through their right side – it was especially effective after Barca were able to overload Madrid’s left side. Alba’s five assists to Messi looks good on paper but in reality it has made significant improvement to Barcelona’s game ideas because they were able to stretch the pitch and create more space for Messi, Iniesta and Busquets to work with in the central areas of the pitch.