Barcelona endured one of their worst seasons in recent memory, both on and off the pitch, despite Lionel Messi’s best efforts. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner played a part in 48% of Barcelona’s La Liga goals in the 2020-21 campaign.
In 47 appearances across all competitions last season, Lionel Messi was directly involved in 50 goals (38 goals, 12 assists). Despite a poor season, Messi and co lifted a record-31st Copa del Rey trophy but will look to stage a better showing this upcoming season.
For the first time in 20 years, Lionel Messi does not have a contract with his boyhood club and still remains a free agent. However, the Argentine is reportedly set to take a 50% pay cut and sign a new contract in the coming weeks.
After an over-reliance in the attacking third on the Copa America winner last season, the Catalans will be hoping for more from the other world-class talent in their ranks.
On that note, let’s take a look at the five Barcelona players who can ease the burden on Lionel Messi this upcoming season.
#5 Ousmane Dembele
Barcelona’s crippling financial troubles will mean that Ronald Koeman has to depend largely on the club’s current squad for the upcoming season.
In such a scenario, Ousmane Dembele will have an important role to play for Blaugrana in the 2021-22 campaign. The Frenchman arrived at the Camp Nou on a whopping £121.5 million transfer from Borussia Dortmund but is yet to live up to the price tag.
However, the 24-year old has shown glimpses of his world-class talent in his relatively short career for Barcelona. In 118 appearances across all competitions, Dembele has been directly involved in 51 goals (30 goals, 21 assists).
The Frenchman fared decently in his last season at Camp Nou, with a return of 11 goals and five assists from 44 appearances. Barcelona are light in the wingers/wide players department and Dembele will afford more width and creative flair to Lionel Messi, Aguero and Depay.
#4 Ansu Fati
The La Masia graduate has been dubbed the heir to Barcelona great, Lionel Messi, since his breakout season in the 2019-20 campaign.
Ansu Fati is one of the most exciting prospects on the continent and has racked up 43 appearances for Barcelona in his relatively short career. The 18-year old showcased immense talent and has the pedigree to become the next big thing in world football.
Fati was exceptional in his breakthrough season at the club, registering an output of eight goals and a solitary assist from 33 appearances. The young Spaniard was off to a flying start in the 2020-21 campaign, with five goals and four assists to his name in just 10 appearances. However, his season was cut short with a horrific meniscus injury.
The wunderkind is yet to make his return from injury but is expected to feature in the upcoming 2021-22 season. If Ansu Fati can return to full fitness, we can witness a prosperous master-protegee relationship between Lionel Messi and the youngster.