PAPPAS | The Most Dangerous Duo in La Liga

It’s a good year to be an FC Barcelona fan. With Sunday’s 6-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad, FC Barcelona extends its winning streak in La Liga to 18 games. The team is currently second in the league, just four points behind leader Atletico Madrid.

To find the reason for Barcelona’s ongoing success of the last decade, one usually needs to look no further than Lionel Messi. Widely regarded as the greatest football player of all time, Messi has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, winning a club-record 33 trophies, including ten La Liga titles and four UEFA Champions League championships.

But this year, an integral part of Barcelona’s success has been the French footballer Antoine Griezmann. In 2019, Griezmann signed with Barcelona in a transfer worth 120 million euros from Atletico Madrid, making him the joint fourth-most expensive player ever signed. The 2020-21 season has seen Griezmann and Messi become a force to be reckoned with. The pair of forwards have scored 28 goals combined, while also logging 15 assists. Statistically speaking, they are the best attacking duo in La Liga.

Sunday’s win illustrates their attacking prowess. In the 36th minute, Griezmann broke the game open with a left-footed shot driven into the bottom corner. American Sergino Dest netted the second and third goals; Messi scored the fourth. After a brilliant solo run, Ousmane Dembélé made the count five in the 71st minute. In the 89th minute, Messi concluded the scoring with a beautiful finish off a flowing team possession.

Messi and Griezmann’s combined value lies not just in scoring statistics, but rather in the impact their performance has on their teammates. Sunday’s match shows that the goals are coming from everywhere now. With his two points, Sergino Dest became the 18th Barca player to score this season, and he’s a right back!

Barcelona Head Coach Ronald Koeman recognizes the importance of being dangerous across the field and is excited at what this portends for the remainder of the season.

“It’s always important for players other than Leo to score goals. That way it’s much harder to defend against us,” Koeman said in a postgame press conference. “Every game from now on for us, Atletico and Real will be difficult. It’s going to be very exciting.”

In his book “The Book of Basketball,” writer and sports journalist Bill Simmons dives into the storied history of the NBA. One of the iconic stories Simmons tells is the “secret of basketball,” an observation about winning teams and the idea that the secret of basketball is that it’s not about basketball. As articulated by the legendary Detroit Pistons guard Isiah Thomas, individual skill cannot overcome the essentiality of good teamwork. Yet players are largely evaluated on individual statistics rather than focusing on capturing their effect on their team.

While Thomas wasn’t talking about “the secret of soccer,” he may as well have been. “The secret” is something that transcends all team sports. It explains Barcelona’s current position as second in La Liga, with the club looking to finish in La Liga’s top two for the 13th year in a row. It explains why Griezmann, who is said to have had a “team comes first” mentality drilled into him at Atletico Madrid, is thriving alongside Messi, whose ingenuity dictates the play of his teammates on the pitch.

This summer, the 33-year-old Messi’s contract with Barcelona will expire. Amid talks of a transfer to Paris Saint Germain or another top European contender, I hope that the Argentinian superstar instead finishes out his storied career at Barcelona. Once fans are allowed at Camp Nou, I will be there, and I expect to see Messi outfitted in striped red and blue alongside Griezmann and his ever-important teammates.

Demi Pappas is a freshman in the McDonough School of Business. Between the Goalposts appears online every other week.

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