Whenever one thinks of the ‘God’ of football, only one name comes to mind – Lionel Messi. Over the past decade or so, Messi has absolutely dominated the game, and is considered to be far above all other players, but exactly how far above is the question?
While most fans believe that he is superhuman, if not the almighty spirit, there are instances when he has shown that he is just like us. We have put together five incidents which prove that Messi is, in fact, just another mere mortal.
#1 Physical altercation with a Roma defender
While Messi is considered to be one of the calmer minds on the pitch, there was one occasion that he lost his temper in a pre-season friendly against Roma.
On the 5th of August 2015, Barcelona took on AS Roma in the Joan Gamper trophy. In the 35th minute, Messi got into an altercation with Roma defender Mapou Yanga Mbiwa, and the verbal argument culminated with the Argentine choking and headbutting the French national.
Had this incident happened in a competitive game, it would have certainly resulted in the Argentine being sent off, but given the friendly nature of the match, Messi continued to play and scored within seven minutes of the squabble.
That match was one of the few times we saw the dark side of the 29-year-old, and it’s safe to say that an angry Messi is far more dangerous than the one we are accustomed to seeing.
#2 Dive in Copa America Centenario finals
Messi isn’t one to go to ground easily, and there are incidents where he has carried on dribbling after being repeatedly fouled. Hence, it was a shock when fans saw him ‘dive’ in the finals of the Copa America Centenario.
After being tackled by Chilean Marcelo Diaz in the box, Messi went down in the hopes of winning a penalty, but was awarded a yellow card instead. The referee, Heber Lopes, insisted that the Argentine had made the most of the situation, and claimed that the tackle was clean.
To date, many disagree with the decision and argue that it was not a dive, but the record books will always show that Messi received a card for diving.
#3 Penalty miss in the Copa America Finals
Talking about the 2016 Copa Centenario finals, the game went into penalties with Argentina trailing throughout the shootout. While Messi had already lost two finals prior to this, he wasn’t a direct cause of the loss.
In this one, though, the little magician missed his penalty (by quite some distance too), allowing Chile to win the tournament for the second year running. While most players miss penalties, Messi is expected to score every time he steps up to the spot but that was not the case in this tournament, which just goes to show that he is human after all.
After the game, the 29-year-old went on to announce his retirement from international football, having lost three major finals with his country.
#4 Habit of disappearing in big games
While Messi performs in almost every game, he has never scored or assisted in any of the three major international tournament finals that he has played in. It could just be his misfortune, but there have been a lot of critics who have blamed him for disappearing in big games.
Having struggled to find his feet in all three of the finals, including missing a late free-kick in the final of the FIFA World Cup against Germany, Messi cannot truly be described as immortal, and the one-off bad games that he has are enough proof that he breathes the same air as all of us.
#5 The interview addressing his critics
Messi polarises opinion – he is loved and hated in equal measure by football fans around the world. For every person that idolises the 29-year-old, there are two that criticise him for his performances on the international stage.
In an interview following Argentina’s loss in the Copa final, Messi addressed all his critics, lashing out at them for not recognising the work the team put in to make it to two consecutive finals. “It was bad. We got to the final of the World Cup and the Copa America and it was as if we didn’t do anything. We are still hearing these criticisms, people killing us. **** off, we got to the World Cup final and the Copa. We didn’t win them but we didn’t lose in the quarter-finals,” is allegedly what he said.
While it is difficult to know if those are his exact words, it is widely agreed that we saw a different man in the interview. Maybe it was pressure, which finally got to Messi, leading him to make the harsh statement that he did. While it is natural for anyone to have a breakdown after so much criticism, one would expect that at least the ‘God’ of football would be able to keep his calm whatever the situation.
All these incidents are proof of the fact that while seemingly perfect, even Messi has his flaws. No doubt, he is probably one of the best footballers to ever play the sport, but even he is just human.