Lionel Messi refutes claims Barcelona struggle without him in lineup
Barcelona have been accused of being too dependent on Lionel Messi in recent weeks, but he hit back at the idea his side struggle to be at their best without him.
Messi missed last weekend's goalless draw with Malaga but returned to action to score twice in the win against Celtic on Wednesday. Brendan Rodgers suggested after the game that the result may have been different if the Argentine had switched sides.
The accusations are not new, but they had quieted in recent seasons following the signings of Neymar and Luis Suarez. However, results over the course of the campaign have once again led to suggestions that Luis Enrique's side are over-reliant on Messi.
"I don't consider talk of Barca being Messi-dependent to be praise or a concern because it's not the case," the 29-year-old said at an event in Barcelona on Thursday. "I'm in the best team in the world, [Barca] don't depend on one player."
Messi's two goals at Celtic Park, which took his tally in Europe this season to nine in four games, ensured Barca's progression to the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners, allowing them to focus on trying to eat into Real Madrid's four point gap at the top of La Liga.
They travel to in-form Real Sociedad on Sunday, who they have not beaten away from home in the league since 2007. Messi thinks the key to ending that hoodoo will be organisation.
"Anoeta is a complicated stadium where we haven't won in years," he added. "[La Real] always make things tough for us there and it's going to be a hard game.
"In football these days it's important to be organised. To have a team that is well-organised is the most important thing. To have a good team everything starts there."
It had been hoped that Messi would talk about the status of his contract renewal with the club. Reports in Marca last week claimed he'd rejected the chance to renew his terms in the summer, but Barcelona sources have told ESPN FC the club remain confident of extending his stay beyond 2018.
President Josep Maria Bartomeu also said he's "convinced" Messi will end his career at Camp Nou. And coach Luis Enrique said it would be the perfect ending for the forward to see out his playing days in Catalonia.
Reports in Sport over the past few days claim that contact has now been made regarding a new deal, with negotiations expected to intensify in the coming weeks. Messi, who only took questions from the event's presenter on Thursday, didn't talk about his future, though.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.