The best individual season of all time? – A look at Lionel Messi’s 2018/19 season
When people think about Lionel Messi’s individual accomplishments, they are quick to mention his 91-goal calendar year and his 73-goal season from 2011/12.
However, the levels he reached in the 2018/19 season were simply outrageous even for his astronomical standards.
In the last game of that LaLiga season against Eibar after Barcelona were confirmed as champions, Messi scored two goals in two minutes. Barcelona could not hold on to the lead but Messi’s 49th and 50th goals were a fitting end to an amazing league campaign for the Argentine.
Here is a look at why the 2018/19 season is Messi’s best individual season.
Messi had better help prior to the 2018/19 season
One could argue that Messi of 2009 to 2012 was the greatest version of the player, thanks to the numerous records he set and broke in that time.
However, in that time, Barcelona was the most dominant footballing force in the world with Guardiola tactics and a wonderful midfield trio of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets keeping the team in control at all times with Messi leading the line in attack.
2013/14 saw the addition of Neymar, who proved to be almost as good as Messi in terms of carrying a team.
By 2018/19, everyone who supported Messi had left the club (or was in the process of leaving, like Iniesta). Messi became the only creative force in a Barcelona side that had started to drop significantly in performance.
That season, however, Messi went on to lead the goal scoring charts (36 goals; won his sixth European golden shoe), the assists charts (13), the chance creation charts (92), the free-kick goals charts (6), the hat-trick charts (3) and the braces charts (7) in LaLiga. He was also second in take-ons (134) behind Celta de Vigo’s Sofiane Boufal (144).
Despite being knocked out by Liverpool in the semifinals, Messi still finished the tournament with 12 goals in 10 games for Barcelona to clinch the top scorer award in the UEFA Champions League that season.
Messi had scored 50 goals in a season five times prior to that season, but he never had to work so hard for it like in 2018/19.
Messi achieved play making heaven in 2018/19 season
With no Xavi and Iniesta to help and no Neymar to share the burden of play making from the front, Messi morphed into an all-round player.
In LaLiga alone, he played 48 through balls – 12 more than his 36 goals. No other player in the league achieved double figures for that stat in that season, and the highest in Europe was 16 for that season.
Messi also played 141 passes into the final third in LaLiga with the second highest 77 by Sevilla’s Jesus Navas.
Messi’s performance in that season saw Barcelona being only three games close to winning an unprecedented third treble. Compared to the other treble winning teams, 2018/19 Barcelona was very watered down, but Messi, who was a number 8, 9, 10 and 11 rolled into one for the Blaugrana, made it possible.