sport news Forcing Lionel Messi to roam deeper will be a good sign for Tottenham

Lionel Messi turned up in London on Tuesday in his Thom Browne three-piece number looking like the groom at the end of his own very long , hair askew, apparently sockless, tie half-mast. 

We all know how deceiving that dishevelled look is. 'Sir Messi' as Mundo Deportivo's front page headline called him, remains the smartest suit on the peg at Barcelona. His importance does not decline with the passing of the years. In fact the passing of the club's other stellar names has made him more vital than ever.

There was a time when taking him out of the team would have only eased the burden on the opposition, not completely removed all threat. Now he is everything. 

Lionel Messi is central to Barcelona's hopes of going the distance in the Champions League

Lionel Messi is central to Barcelona's hopes of going the distance in the Champions League

The Argentinian superstar may have looked dishevelled on Tuesday, but that is far from true

Messi trains with his team-mates at Wembley

The Argentinian superstar may have looked dishevelled on Tuesday, but that is far from true

With Xavi and Andres Iniesta no longer making music in midfield, Dani Alves' 'two-players-in-one' act down the right hand-side long gone, Gerard Pique struggling to hold a frail defence together, and Luis Suarez looking for his first away goal in the Champions League since 2015, they need Messi to keep adding to his tally for the calendar year so far of 35 goals.

All that is good news for Tottenham. More than ever before it's true to say that if you can stop Messi you can stop Barcelona. It's true that a week ago when Barcelona went to bottom of the table Leganes the plan to swarm Messi faltered when, in the first half, he drew five Leganes players to him before sliding a pass to the unattended Philippe Coutinho and the Brazilian scored to put Barcelona in the lead.

But Leganes persevered with their general plan to swamp the Barcelona No 10 and they ran out 2-1 winners. At the weekend Messi was left resting on the bench by Barca coach Ernesto Valverde and the team toiled joylessly to break down Athletic Bilbao without him.

When he came off the bench to play the last half an hour he made the equaliser chasing a lost cause into the corner,

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