Lionel Messi can't catch a break at Barcelona in 2020.
There was uproar when the six-time Ballon d'Or winner was named alongside Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo in the final three of FIFA's 'The Best Men's Player' award this week.
And that's because, for all intents and purposes, Messi has endured an incredibly difficult 12 months to the extent that many think the likes of Neymar and Kevin De Bruyne have surpassed him.
Messi's tough 2020
More than 20 goals and 20 assists in La Liga last season marked a pretty impressive individual haul, but the 2019/20 campaign was largely littered with disappointment and not a single major honour.
Eternal rivals Real Madrid wrestled the Spanish title out of their hands, Bayern Munich knocked them out of the Champions League in an 8-2 thrashing and two head coaches bit the bullet.
All that led to Messi angling for a Barcelona exit in the summer, only deciding to stay at Camp Nou for what could be as little as one more season due to legal complications surrounding his contract.
Only two goals from open play
Since then, the Blaugrana have been limping more than ever with Messi's top-line statistics looking pretty underwhelming as the Catalans struggle in ninth place in La Liga under Ronald Koeman.
In fact, you could probably close your eyes, swing a stick and hit a social media post reminding fans that Messi has only scored two goals from open play this season.
There can be no denying that's a pretty disappointing return for a man who boasts the world record for the most goals in a calendar year, but Messi really been as bad as that data would suggest?
Has Messi actually been poor?
Well, long story short: absolutely not and we're out to prove it.
WhoScored.com is arguably the most thorough data bank on Europan football available to fans and awards players in the continent's top five leagues average match ratings based on various stats.
When you average these ratings across months and months of games, you get yourself a detailed assessment of how somebody's playing - and we put Messi's numbers under the microscope.
The results? Well, they're pretty eye-opening with Messi's average match rating of 7.93 in La Liga this season making him the sixth-best player in Europe as far as the stats are concerned.
Europe's top 20 players
Check out the only five players to get the better of the Barcelona captain as well as those hot on his heels by perusing the top 20 down below:
20. Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli) - 7.69
19. James Rodriguez (Everton) - 7.63
18. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) - 7.64
17. Zinedine Ferhat (Nimes) - 7.64
16. Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich) - 7.64
15. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United) - 7.65
14. Dominic Calvert-Lewin (Everton) - 7.68
13. Heung-min Son (Tottenham Hotspur) - 7.68
12. Andy Delort (Montpellier) - 7.69
11. Matheus Cunha (Hertha Berlin) - 7.79
10. Andrej Kramarić (Hoffenheim) - 7.79
9. Erling Braut Haaland (Borussia Dortmund) - 7.83
8. Cristiano Ronaldo (Juventus) - 7.91
7. Neymar (Paris Saint-Germain) - 7.93
6. Lionel Messi (Barcelona) - 7.93
5. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) - 8.07
4. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) - 8.08
3. Jack Grealish (Aston Villa) - 8.11
2. Kylian Mbappe (Paris Saint-Germain) - 8.28
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan) - 8.41
Fair play to Messi
Well, there you have it, there are more to footballing statistics than open play goals and Messi has his broad skillset in the playmaking position to thank for him soaring up the European rankings.
Besides, Messi has been a rare positive for Barcelona in so many of their crushing defeats in 2020, mustering 10 and seven shots at goal respectively during the Cadiz and Juventus losses.
It's difficult to say that they've been good enough to overcome Ronaldo's rampant goalscoring, mind, but who are we to argue with hoards and hoards of data sets?
Either way, credit to the elite group of players that have wiggled their way past Messi, especially Grealish and Ibrahimovic considering one stars for Aston Villa and the other is nearly 40 years old.
But let's just say they shouldn't be surprised if Messi manages to reel them in by the time the season finishes. GOATs gotta do what GOATs gotta do.News Now - Sport News