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Messi scores most goals in a year as Barcelona tighten grip on Spanish football
December 27, 2012
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BARCELONA: With Barcelona having made a record start to the season and Lionel Messi hitting the most goals in a calendar year it is easy to forget the clouds of uncertainty that hung over the Camp Nou last summer as they sought to topple champions Real Madrid.

It appeared as though Barca had reached the end of an era as Pep Guardiola chose to walk away after being pipped to the title by his nemesis Jose Mourinho whose side notched up a record 100 points and 121 goals in the process.

It had taken Mourinho two seasons but he had finally ended Barcelona’s hegemony that had seen them win three consecutive championships and two Champions Leagues since Guardiola returned to the club in the summer of 2008.

During his first year a fear element set in at the Bernabeu as Mourinho desperately sought and failed to find a way to counteract Barca’s technically strong passing game but last April Real came out on top 2-1 in a key game to decide the title at the Nou Camp.

Real seemed to be a team on the up as they had consolidated without the need to spend lavishly in the transfer market, but rather they attempted to fine tune the squad with the addition for example of Luka Modric from Tottenham Hotspur to add competition for Mesut Ozil in midfield.

It would be easy to think that Guardiola decided to leave in the face of this and indications that his Barcelona team was on a downward curve.

While Lionel Messi was prolific as ever with a record of 73 goals for the 2011-12 season the club had become more dependent on him and rumours had developed that Guardiola had lost the support of members of the dressing room like Dani Alves, David Villa and Cesc Fabregas who were not happy about sitting on the bench.

In a number of league games they had struggled as the opposition packed the midfield and prevented Barca from playing and although the team did capture the King’s Cup against Athletic Bilbao they were also knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea in the semi-finals despite dominating in both legs.

The decision to promote Tito Vilanova to the top job was widely supported to ensure a smooth transition but there were plenty of questions over whether Guardiola’s reserved assistant had the charisma for the role.

Fears were raised as Real came out on top in the domestic Super Cup, the season’s curtain raiser between the league and cup winners, but since then Barcelona’s form has been relentless.

Despite a catalogue of injuries especially in defence, the Catalans made a record start to the league season as they only dropped points in a 2-2 draw with Real and the main reason for the prolific form has been the displays of Messi.

Agence France-Presse


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