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Leo is the Messi-ah of football

raghavan m j
Editor's Pick
2.26K   //    13 Mar 2011, 18:50 IST

My Left Foot

The most fascinating stories we have heard in our lives are not the ones we saw on the silver screen, but the ones our ears were exposed to through our mother’s voice. She would fabricate these long and tumultuous stories of a protagonist battling through his gauntlet and ending up victorious. If we run our own little rewind buttons, we can all recollect that every one of those renditions had a moral at the end of it. More often than not the hero remained incorruptible and that’s why we grow up to idolize superheroes like Superman, Spider-man, and Batman etc. However the irrevocable truth that we begin to discover with the progression of time is that there are no heroes in real life. I was no different, but after three decades of existence there came a glimmer of hope in the form a cherubic-faced footballer called Lionel Messi.

Ever since I started watching football, players have come and gone but no player has come close to this lofty athlete and down-to-earth being who hails from a small town called Rosario in Argentina. This 23 year old is certainly there along with the greats that have played this game, but it is my humble yet unflappable opinion that this man would go down in history as the greatest ever. Proverbially speaking, statistics do tend to distort the real picture, but not in the case of this ‘atomic flea’ as we all affectionately call him.

The last three seasons have been scripted so well, and the diminutive genius scores goals like stealing candy from a baby. The year Barcelona won the treble, it looked like 38 goals was plenty and definitely a record, difficult to surpass even by Messi’s high standards.  The following year he scaled past the figure and ended the year with 47 goals in all competitions for the club. Now to show how ridiculously consistent he can be, Messi has already scored 45 goals in all competitions thus far and is well on way to notch up a much higher number considering he has another 12 La Liga games, one Copa Del Rey final and potentially 5 more UEFA Champions League games left before the end of the season. If the game of football is ultimately won by the count of goals, I don’t fathom how there can be a greater footballer than one who puts the ball at the back of the net every time he sets his foot on the pitch. If you think I am making this up, then listen up. In 2009-10 and 2010-11 thus far he has played 93 games overall for FC Barcelona and he has scored 92 goals, so now you do the math.

2010-11 so far404521
Total 14413050

Well football is not in anyway an individual sport and the stats above do show that Messi is also among the leaders in Europe in terms of assists. Over the last 3 seasons the Rosario ‘Ravager’ has improved his goals per game ratio from 0.75 to 1.1, and if we add his assists to the equation, he ends up contributing towards 8 goals every 5 games.

Respect – The 6 letters he deserves

The Ballon D’Or winner is feared by the opposition, but is idolized and loved by team mates and that does not reflect in numbers like assists. May be a few instances can provide the necessary justification for this claim. Whenever you would observe a dead- ball scenario of FC Barcelona, Messi is never the one to always take the free kick, even though one would put more money on him finding the net, on the other hand we have all seen those ugly incidences like the on-field fight between Drogba and Ballack as to who should take the free kick. In the 2009-10 season when Ibrahimovic was in a middle of a lean patch goal-wise, Messi sacrificed an opportunity to take a spot kick to the former, later saying that he knew how important that goal was for Zlatan. On the diametrically opposite side of the spectrum we have a certain CR9 who recently took the spot kick by himself even though Benzema was on a hat-trick and also had been under severe criticism for missing close opportunities over the past several weeks. I follow every game of FC Barcelona and most of the other European clubs too, but Messi is one guy who would never go down. There is in-fact a dedicated compilation on You tube which shows how the ‘La Pulga’ would do just about everything to stay on his feet even in the midst of a fierce tackle.

Christopher Nolan in ‘Batman Begins’ says that “It is not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you”. Truth be told, this maxim stands the test of time and it is not only Messi’s on-field sleight-of foot, which is like divine intervention on the pitch, but also his demeanor that sets him apart and makes this adage ever so veracious. One can never find this pocket-sized genius losing his cool or making a histrionic attempt of being fouled. When all around the world we keep hearing stories of the rich-and famous footballers caught either with their pants down or their flashy automobiles crashed up, Messi maneuvers past these distractions better than he cuts through defenders on the gridiron. Who can forget that humbling sight of Messi’s mom handing over the 2009 Ballon D’Or to him in front a packed Nou Camp? The world has never been short of sporting icons that have transformed the game and traversed past higher altitudes of performance but that abundant list would trickle down to a measly number if we just monitor their abstinence from the ugly side of fame. Maradona, George Best have all been there and showed us how success and vanity can turn us into self-destructive monsters, and even the majestic Zizou managed to turn villain on that fateful night in Berlin in 2006. But if there was one athlete who is worth idolizing by men of all ages and if FIFA ever needed an ambassador of the sport who fit the bill of ‘Fair Play’ then one has to look no further than Lionel Messi.

In conclusion I would like to play God’s advocate and defend this magician from a camp of fans and analysts who use a joker card to shoot down this player. First of all there is this complaint that Messi does not raise his game when playing for the Albiceleste. Let us first remember that he is an Olympic Gold medal winner and he scored 2 goals and made an all important assist in the finals against Nigeria. As a 20 year old he scored twice including a scintillating lob against Mexico in the semifinals of the Copa America 2007. He also made two assists and earned a penalty and a free kick which were later converted to goals across the length of the tournament before losing out to Brazil in the finals.


When I witnessed the magician

At the 2005 youth world cup he was the top scorer with 6 goals. And apart from winning both the Golden Ball and Golden Shoe he also helped Argentina win the tournament. Clearly the ‘La Pulga’ has displayed some mesmerizing quality of football for his country too and nothing hurts him more than that missing World Cup Trophy from his embellished résumé. The 2010 world cup was one tourney where Lady Luck just was not on Messi’s side. Believe you me, I was witness to the unparalleled genius from a wonderful seat on a chilly afternoon at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg and he contributed to each of the 4 goals during that match against South Korea without appearing on the scoring sheet. This was the way the world cup went for the little genius. Neither did Maradona and Zidane have a world cup when they were 23, nor were they heaped and pressured upon with so much of expectation and such an age. Anybody who has been witness to some of the latest international friendlies would have observed how Messi has begun to take more control of the possession and the results are there to see with victories against Spain, Brazil and Portugal and Messi scoring against all of them.  Maybe it was Maradona’ strategy of not letting Messi play in a rolling position like he does for FCB that just did not do the trick in 2010, but I am supremely confident it is a matter of when rather than if.

Finally to all those pessimists and twisted fanatics who claim that Messi is not a ‘Complete’ player, that is just complete ineptitude. This guy can dribble, run, dribble and run, assist, score from distance, score from close in, score with his head(literally and even otherwise), score from a free kick, steal a ball from a defender, leave a defender for dead and I just don’t know what else is left to be called a complete player. Hiding behind this innocent countenance is the heart of a pugilist. Messi is a hero the world needed desperately to believe that it is possible to be rich yet righteous and indomitable yet incorruptible. Lionel Andres Messi – Take a Bow!

raghavan m j
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