Bet Against More Messi Marks

Betting against Lionel Messi is the quick way to the poorhouse in most instances but the value lies in opposing the four-time, FIFA Ballon d’Orrecipient in some of the Spanish La Liga goal-scoring markets that have sprung up.

Bookmakers know that punters cannot get enough of Messi so they have framed markets that enable fans of the Barcelona forward to bet on his Spanish La Liga goals tally this term.

Stan James is leading the way, with its most interesting Messi market offering odds of 8-5 about him scoring more than 50 Spanish La Liga goals this season, with 7-4 about 47 to 50 goals inclusive and 7-4 about fewer than 47 goals.

The 25-year-old superstar has scored 29 goals in Barcelona’s 20 Spanish La Liga matches so far this term, including at least one goal in each of his team’s last 10 league games.

If Messi continues to rustle the onion bag at his current rate and does not miss any of Barcelona’s remaining 18 Spanish La Liga matches, he will end up with 55 goals.

But surely there are grounds for thinking that the value lies in backing Messi to fall short of the 50-goal record that he set last season, with bookmakers and punters alike getting a little bit carried away with his run of form.

All good things must come to an end and it is highly likely that Messi will experience a run of outs between now and the end of the Spanish La Liga competition. And until last term, no player had scored more than 41 Spanish La Liga goals in a single campaign. For Messi to string together back-to-back half-centuries would be a truly remarkable achievement.

Barcelona has 18 Spanish La Liga games to go. If Messi does in 2012-2013 what he did in 2011-2012, the twinkle-toed attacker will score 15 goals in 16 of those matches, with the fixtures against Celta Vigo and Deportivo La Coruna being new this term because of last season’s promotions. Twenty-nine plus 15 equals 44, with two games in hand.

Messi is unlikely to sit out any of Barcelona’s remaining Spanish La Liga matches through suspension – he has picked up only one yellow card and it takes five cautions to receive a ban – but one would have to think that the Catalans will rest their prized asset at some point.

Barcelona is eight points clear of Atletico Madrid at the summit of this term’s Spanish La Liga ladder, with Real Madrid another seven points further back in third. Tito Vilanova would have to have rocks in his head not to ease the load on Messi during the second half of Barcelona’s season, particularly in and around UEFA Champions League ties, starting with the home-and-away games versus Italian Serie A giant Milan in the last 16. Messi has been on the substitutes’ bench for three of Barcelona’s unimportant matches this campaign. Expect more of that to happen.

And, without wishing to death ride Messi, there is always the possibility that he could sustain an injury that would cause him to miss games. Football is a physical sport and Messi, definitely the best player since Diego Maradona and maybe superior to his Argentine compatriot, has a target on his back whenever he runs out to play for club or country.

Punters who do not shy away from short odds will step into the slightly bigger than 4-11 available about Messi not scoring more than 50 Spanish La Liga goals this term.

Punters who like to play at odds against will have a crack at the 7-4 available about Messi not going past 46 Spanish La Liga goals this season. That stands out as the value bet, one that should be trading at around the even-money mark.

Stan James (www.stanjames.com) is betting on the number of Spanish La Liga hat-tricks that Messi scores this term – 11-8 no more than two, 9-4 three and 13-8 four or more – while William Hill is betting on Messi’s professional future. Messi is 11-4 not to play for a club other than Barcelona. There is probably a fair chance that Messi will retire as a one-club player – he has not known anything other than Barcelona since he was a teenager – but the bet could take upwards of 10 years to result. It is not worth the wait for a measly 11-4 dividend.

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