Barcelona: Neymar’s sudden departure to Paris St Germain last year threatened to derail Barcelona’s season before it began, but those betting against the Catalans had overlooked the sheer, indefatigable brilliance of Lionel Messi.
The Argentine magician shrugged off Neymar’s exit, as well as a slump in form for strike partner Luis Suarez, took on the extra responsibility himself and fired the club to the title, fittingly scoring a hat-trick in their 4-2 win at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday which clinched their league triumph.
The season had begun under gloomy skies. Two resounding defeats to then league and European champions Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup in August indicated Barca would not enjoy life after Neymar, especially when his replacement Ousmane Dembele suffered a serious injury.
It is to Messi’s credit that Barca were still able to dethrone Madrid and romp to a 25th league crown. The Argentine was forced to reinvent himself after playing in an attacking trident with Neymar and Suarez for the previous three seasons, compensating for Suarez’s slump early in the campaign.