Exuberant Messi spearheads La Liga triumph

Sun May 17, 2015 3:09pm EDT
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By Tim Hanlon

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Just when some wondered if Lionel Messi was losing his passion for the game, the Argentine bounced back showing exuberance and his full footballing repertoire in spearheading Barcelona's charge to La Liga triumph.

A rejuvenated Messi played some of the best soccer of his career during the second half of the season as part of an increasingly deadly attacking trident that has propelled the Catalan side to their fifth league win in seven years.

Barca have rolled over their opposition in all competitions with a mighty 29 victories from their last 32 games since the turn of the year that keeps them on course for a repeat of 2009’s treble success.

Messi came into 2015 in the doldrums on the back of irregular form by his own high standards and there appeared to be plenty of friction between him and new coach Luis Enrique.

Off the field he had a strained relationship with the club that had been intensified by an investigation by tax inspectors where he didn’t get the support from Barca he felt he was entitled to.

Meanwhile, Real had made the running in La Liga, ending 2014 with a Spanish record 22-match winning run and Messi’s arch-rival at the Bernabeu, Cristiano Ronaldo, was named World Player of the Year.

When Barca lost their first game in January away to Real Sociedad and news emerged of a bust-up between Messi and Luis Enrique the talk turned to crisis.

The Argentine returned late from his Christmas break and was angry at being made a substitute in San Sebastian. There were heated exchanges between the pair, and Messi missed training the following day claiming to be unwell.   Continued...

Barcelona's Lionel Messi (C) celebrates his goal against Atletico Madrid during their Spanish first division soccer match at Vicente Calderon stadium in Madrid, Spain, May 17, 2015. REUTERS/Andrea Comas