How many angels
Can dance on the head of a pin?
There is no answer
It’s like counting the bubbles
In a bottle of Champagne
“An explosion of the exceptional!” shouted Peter Drury into his microphone as Lionel Messi ghosted between 3 Bosnian defenders and caressed the ball past Asmir Begovic and into the bottom corner. It was a goal most of the world had been waiting for and it took some 8 years in the making.
Messi last scored at the World Cup finals in 2006 and before his gorgeous slide rule finish against Bosnia, he had gone 8 years without hitting the back of the net. At 27 years of age and with an Argentine squad built to bring the best out of him, 2014 was expected to be the year Lionel Messi finally illuminated the world.
While things didn’t quite go to plan and Argentina succumbed to the Germans in Rio De Janeiro, a simple question arises – hasn’t Messi already shown us how good he is? Has not La Pulga already lit up our footballing world with his utterly unreal genius? How much does he have to do to win over his critics?
6 La Liga titles, 3 Champions League crowns, 2 Copa Del Rey’s, 2 UEFA Super Cups and 2 FIFA Club World Cups. 4 Ballon d’Ors, 3 European Golden Shoe awards, holder of the Guinness World Record for most goals in a calendar year (91), first footballer ever to score consecutively against all teams in a professional league, most hat-tricks in the Champions League, most goals scored in the Champions League knockout phase, only player to score in 21 different cities in the European Cup.
This guy isn’t really all that good, is he?! 1 poor World Cup and an indifferent World Cup final and everything else about Lionel Messi turns to dust. Let’s forget his slaloming run and finish v Getafe, his gravity-defying header in the Champions League final against Manchester United, his quite magnificent (and hugely under-rated) drop of the shoulder and finish vs. Athletic Bilbao and countless other memorable moments and just focus on 5 games he had with his country.
Comparisons with Diego Maradona, inevitable as they might be, have overshadowed what a brilliant technician this diminutive player from Rosario is. While we are fed snippets of Maradona from THAT game against England in 1986 and his occasional brilliance for Argentina, we consume every single frame of Lionel Messi every single week. We have taken for granted the things Messi can do with the ball at his feet.
How many of us have actually seen more than 4 full games (if that) of Diego Maradona? Have you seen him guide Napoli to the Scudetto in 1987? Of course you haven’t. While we see Messi decimating and obliterating opponents in La Liga every week, we just sit back and lazily compare him to this IDEA we have of Diego Maradona in our heads. This image that the media has put into our minds clouds our judgement of Messi. Can we not simply be astonished by what this player, humble as a deer, can produce on a football pitch?
He may not have deserved the Golden Ball at the 2014 World Cup, but it wasn’t because he played poorly. 2 winners, 1 match-winning assist and a nerveless penalty are by no means abysmal. James Rodriguez and Thomas Muller had better World Cups than him and either one of them should have lifted the coveted trophy but to criticise Messi for an award he had no say in is lazy, if not ignorant, at best.
I’ll let Messi drop a quote that just about sums up the media’s lackadaisical and fickle attitude in today’s world:
“It took me 17 years and 114 days to be an overnight success.”
There was a Nike commercial 5 years back featuring Carlos Tevez where the Argentine outcast challenges you - “Can you make the ball do what YOU want?” Lionel Messi can. Every day.