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Alves celebrating his goal against Spartak Moscow / PHOTO: Miguel Ruiz - FCB

• Messi’s greatness more than numbers

Leander Schaerlaeckens tries to make sense of Messi’s unstoppable goalscoring run in his article for Fox Soccer. “Messi now so transcends his sport that we’re clutching onto weird, hurriedly contrived records just to frame the unprecedented parameters of his greatness. Barca’s overgrown star [...] with the furious little feet breaks records in such a blur of precision and competence that we’re forced to come up with new ones for him to break,” writes Schaerlaeckens. According to the journalist, “we don’t typically tabulate goals by the calendar year in soccer, that’s what seasons are for. But we now reach for Muller’s little-known high-water mark. Because there was nothing else left for Messi to break. He shattered the all-competitions single-season scoring record with 73 goals last season (also previously Muller’s at 67) and, at 25, is already Barca’s all-time scoring leader too.”

It is true, we struggle to contextualize Messi’s accomplishments. Perhaps looking back through football history is the only tool that remains at our disposal to frame the Argentine's feats into something we can understand.

Schaerlaeckens asks: “How to measure transcendence?”

Perhaps the best form of deference in this case, rather than invent new terms of dominance, however problematic within their historical context, is to simply acknowledge that this ethereal greatness cannot be grasped or defined or contextualized completely.”

He concludes: Messi "is beyond records.”

Read Leander Schaerlaeckens' artilce in its entirety here.

• Barça right to stick with Plan A

Between La Liga and the Champions League FC Barcelona have conceded 20 goals so far this season, prompting criticism that the Blaugrana are in dire need of a Plan B. Graham Hunter, writing for UEFA.com, takes a look at Barça’s defensive instability and concludes that that the siren calls for another approach are misguided.

Hunter believes “the startling sight of Vilanova's charges playing majestically in attack at RC Deportivo La Coruña (5-4), Rayo Vallecano de Madrid (5-0) and RCD Mallorca (4-2) – yet shipping six goals in the process is a sign there is fine-tuning to be done.” He adds: “However, this is where those who suddenly advocate that, following the lack of a clinical touch in Glasgow, Barcelona have to develop a Plan B miss the point.”

The journalist then goes on to quote Tito Vilanova, "We play so many teams who defend like Celtic did, home and away, and we win 95% of those matches," and Dani Alves, “We don't need a Plan B, we just need to make Plan A work better.” He concludes: “They are right. When Piqué, Puyol and, hope against hope, Éric Abidal are back and functioning properly in Vilanova's back line, Barcelona are credible contenders for a treble this term.”

Read Graham Hunter's article in its entirety here.

Another look at the players

• Hours before Barça took to the pitch against Spartak Moscow, Mascherano tweeted a photo of himself with Sergio Busquets, Pedro and very fashionable Jordi Alba.

[+] PICTURE

 • Blanket? Stay warm? In Russia? No thanks.

[+] PICTURE

• Víctor Valdés, a proud father.

[+] PICTURE

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