Lionel Messi continues to develop at Barcelona


By Jerome Pugmire ,AP

PARIS — Paris Saint-Germain has even more reason to fear Barcelona star Lionel Messi when the teams meet in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Messi finds himself in an unusual position of being out-scored by a Barcelona teammate. But although he is getting fewer goals than Neymar, Messi’s overall game continues to blossom and the 27-year-old is arguably even more dangerous than during his rampantly prolific heyday, when he netted 186 Barca goals from 2010-2013.

Barcelona has managed 18 goals in 7 games so far this season, with Messi involved in 14 of them as the chief supplier for Neymar. The Brazil striker grabbed his first Barca hat trick in Saturday’s 6-0 rout of Malaga, with Messi scoring twice to reach 401 goals for club and country and also setting up two.

The previous week, he created two goals and scored one in a 5-0 thrashing of Levante.

“He’s an impressive player on every level because he can score and he can pass,” said Barcelona coach Luis Enrique, who scored 73 goals in 207 games for Barca from 1996-2004.

“He’s also a very determined player, and I think he’s also the No. 1 in terms of defending and dropping back,” Enrique said Monday. “Even though people talk much less about that part of his game, he’s also very good at it.”

With Neymar around, the burden of scoring has been eased on Messi, however, and this allows his game to develop in other ways.