BARCELONA – Miralem Pjanic must explode, and Lionel Messi, rebel. His night. The Bosnian is expected for the sanction of Busquets without too much fuss and even doubting that Koeman will give him a title that he has hardly enjoyed since the course began; the Argentine is expected as usual: that he is the team leader … In a match of special consideration for him considering that just two weeks ago he suffered the first expulsion of his career as a Barcelona player and lost the first trophy of the season.
Pjanic is supposed to start this Sunday against Athletic Bilbao. It is supposed, let’s say, because it should be understood by now that he has gone from being a strategic signing to an almost invisible footballer. Midfielder or interior with a great route, excellent touch and a very good arrival from the second row, his impact on Barça has been, however, null at this point.
The Bosnian midfielder, who will turn 31 in April, has taken part in 21 of the 29 official matches played so far by Koeman’s team, but he has only started ten of them and only completed five, adding 1,042 minutes out of 2,700. played, which reduces his presence on the field to 38.6 percent of the minutes, a statistic far from what was expected when his signing was presented back in August.
It is, however, in the League where his performance is even lower: 12 appearances in 19 games, only three as a starter and one complete to add 390 minutes out of 1,710 possible. A squalid 22.8 percent of the total. From there, the questions are obliged: What is Pjanic’s role at Barça? Was your trade for Arthur a good sporting deal?
Pjanic plays a curious role at the Camp Nou. While Philippe Coutinho is singled out on a daily basis, Antoine Griezmann’s performance is scrutinized day by day and Martin Braithwaite must carry the enormous weight of being an uncertain successor to Luis Suarez, the Bosnian’s name is hardly questioned and being as he is a player with an excellent career behind him, he goes through invisibility as a Barça player.
That the former Juventus player, after not playing for a minute in the last two games against Elche and Rayo Vallecano, was not a starter this Sunday against Athletic would reveal and confirm all the suspicions surrounding his figure since the beginning of the season. Underused and out of place until today, the duel against the lions should be, by force, the moment of truth in his Barça career.
THE MESSI REBELLION
For Messi, the night also has a special flavor, although for reasons very different from Pjanic’s. Leo obviously has nothing to prove at this point in his career, but this match against Athletic is of special consideration for him.
Born winner, colossal competitor and uncompromising leader, the Argentine experienced two weeks ago in Seville disappointments that were difficult, in his case impossible, to fit in willingly. After 20 months without lifting a title as a Barça player, Barça lost the opportunity to enjoy a trophy again against the Basque team and, to round off the disappointment, they saw them being sent off for the first time in their 16-year career with the first team.
In what will be his 40th game against the lions (of which he won 26, he drew 9 and only lost 4), Messi, who has scored 26 goals, will have a special desire. Keep leading his Barça, win the game … And get that double thorn out of the Super Cup.