Lionel Messi has failed to return to his remarkable best with Barcelona, following a coming together with Valencia left-back Toni Lato.
That is not to say that he is no longer their biggest threat, however the Argentinian has struggled to make a decisive impact in his side’s last two LaLiga Santander fixtures.
Barcelona left the San Mames on Sunday night with their tail between their legs after only managing to draw with the Basque outfit.
Messi looked somewhat dejected as he left the field and it seems both he and his teammates are going through a poor run of form by their excellent standards.
There is a clear correlation between Messi having an off day and his team also having one.
“He is not quite 100%, but he is almost there,” said Jon Aspiazu, Barcelona‘s assistant manager.
Despite never getting out of first gear and clearly still hindered by his recent injury, Messi did, however, appear to show signs of improvement against Athletic.
Ernesto Valverde attempted to protect his player by playing down his recent lacklustre performances but the player himself admitted that he is still not fully fit.
All eyes will now be firmly on the Argentinian to see whether he can return to full fitness ahead of his team’s pivotal Copa del Rey second leg clash against rivals Real Madrid on 27 February, along with their Champions League last 16 first leg against Lyon one week before.
Messi was on the bench in the first half of the Clasico but was brought on in a bid to salvage something from the game.
The match ended 1-1, meaning that the second leg on is anyone’s for the taking.