And now, we come upon the time of the season where we recap, and look at the players who made us go, and debate like crazy what a dumbass I am.
So to start, Lionel Messi is my Most Improved Player of this season. And it was a really, really hard decision.
You have to look at the club, and the year that it had. When you do, two names leap out at you: Pedro! and Messi. It could have almost come down to a coin toss, because Pedro! scored so many key, key goals for the club this season, and emerged fully as yet another proud, successful canterano. He went from not being on the Del Bosque radar to going to South Africa with the Spain squad, such was his explosion as an offensive force.
But then I had to look at what Pedro! wasn’t doing when he wasn’t scoring goals, and that made the Messi decision a whole lot easier.
If you look purely at the numbers, Messi wasn’t that far off from last season. He had 38 goals in all competitions last year, and 45 this season, if my math is right. But what distinguished his goals this season compared to last was the way in which they were scored, and the import. He essentially hoisted our offense on his shoulders this season, popping in goals just for fun sometimes. He equaled the amazing scoring record of The Real Ronaldo, and nabbed the Golden Boot.
But he also became a leader, making Barca into his club. He didn’t wear the captain’s armband, but when he strode onto the pitch, there was no question who had the steering wheel. And as a leader, he improved his game. Last year, he was banging in goals. This season he added passing to his bag of tricks, laying on neat assists, give-and-gos and deft flicks and lobs, moving himself one more step toward being unplayable.
Yes, he had moments of unconscionable selfishness. And we will probably even find that once the overall KRS is tallied, he probably (no, I don’t know) won’t even be our most highly-rated player overall. But he was certainly our most improved. People wondered after last season, whether he could get any better, and he did. Because he had to as we worked in a new acquisition in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and his partner in crime last season, Thierry Henry, was laid low by injury and age.
And there is no truer sign of a leader than his willingness to do whatever it took, even when he shouldn’t have been on the pitch. So for overall ability and those intangibles that make a great player even better, the Most Improved was, to me, ultimately a no-brainer.