Lionel Messi has never scored against an Italian club from open play. In nine matches against Serie A teams, he has scored three times -- all of which came from penalties against Milan in the Champions League last season (Barcelona played Milan a total of four times in the group stage and quarterfinals). According to former Milan midfielder Mark van Bommel, this fact was not lost on the Rossoneri before their 2-0 win against Barca in the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 tie.
Van Bommel, who spent the 2011-12 season at San Siro, has claimed that he and his colleagues at Milan were of the opinion that Messi would struggle to score more than 30 goals in a campaign if he played in Italy.
"Three quarters [of the changing room] thought he would score definitely less [than 30 goals a season in Serie A]," Van Bommel told Algemeen Dagblad.
"And that's me included, yes. Serie A is just a very different approach to football. You can still neutralise sides like in no other league.
"It was only last year that Messi scored his first goal against an Italian club. This is no coincidence."
Of course, 30 goals is a high ceiling and 99.999999 percent of players would struggle to score that many in any league, but Messi has topped that figure the last four years in a row in the more defensively lenient La Liga. He scored a record 50 league goals last season (Zlatan Ibrahimovic led Serie A with 28) and already has 37 in 24 matches this season (Edinson Cavani leads Serie A with 18).
So when Andy Gray suggested that Messi would struggle on a cold night at Stoke, perhaps he should've said Siena?