Thierry Henry vs Lionel Messi - A comparison
The beautiful game has seen some wondrous footballing greats, who with their indefatigable urge to mesmerise the world with their magical exploits, have set billions of hearts alight while gracing the football pitch.
Such names live on and immortalise themselves in the hearts of their fans. No wonder legends like Pele, Maradona and Zidane still rule the hearts of football fanatics worldwide. One such footballer, who with his spellbinding technique on the pitch has inspired millions of kids to promote football to a career option from just a passion in life, is former Arsenal star Theirry Henry- who became a demigod in his club and country and in his prime, captivated the world with his fantastical prowess with the ball.
Thierry Henry - a name that instantly brings back flashes of brilliance in the red and white jersey breezing past the opponents, baffling them with cheeky twists and turns, tricking and twittering his way past to fire a thunderbolt past the keeper and the cauldron erupts into the cries of joy and appreciation for the conjurer of Highbury.
Does this sounds familiar? Does this remind you of something familiar you witnessed only recently? From Red and White to Red and Blue? From England to Spain? From Highbury to Camp Nou?
So here we are – it’s the ultimate contest where The Conjurer of Highbury takes on The Wonder kid of Camp Nou!
If there is one footballer who comes close to the legendary Arsenal hit-man, it has to be the tiny giant who is considered to be the best in the world today - Lionel Messi.
This diminutive player from Barcelona needs no introduction. He dazzles on the pitch, sizzles with the ball which fizzles out the life left in his hapless opposition. He storms down the field like a tracer bullet, grounding his marker with his inexplicably staggering skills, flying past the flabbergasted defense to glory.
Messi has a gargantuan influence on the present generation and he is regarded as a perfect role model. Add to this, his chimerical goal-scoring record for arguably the best club in the world. His performances on the grandest of all stages bring out the man behind the boy and validates the saying “size matters only while evaluating achievements, not while measuring one’s waist size!”
What I’ll be attempting to do here is to pit the two greats against each other… the infallible of the past with the nonpareil of the present. Henry and Messi are different. While Henry is 6 ft 2 inches tall, Messi is 5 ft 6 inches. Henry’s weight during his prime was about 78 kgs while Messi weighs 67 kilos.
Henry exuded his class and weaved his magic in the most competitive league in the world, the English Premier League for Arsenal and the then international heavyweights France, while Messi instills life into the Spanish La Liga while enthralling the Camp Nou faithful and is the pride of his homeland Argentina. While the differences are ostensible, what binds them together is their love for the game and being stalwarts of the same in their own right. Lets compare these two luminaries on the field who brings what to the football pitch and who pips whom in what way.
1) Pace and ball control:
Lionel Messi: Ask any defender in the world today about their worst nightmare to and you’d receive an instant response -”Messi!” The frantic pace with which he flies past the opposition leaves even the best marksmen bamboozled. While there are few others around the world who could match the little genius in a 200 meter dash, there’s no match to Messi when it comes to the pace with which he controls the ball. The ease with which he makes the most complicated turns and touches earns him the respect even from his rivals.
Rating - 9/10
Thierry Henry: Arsenal football club had it’s best years in 2003/04. During those years Arsenal was the most affluent clubs in terms of the quality of play and the enthralling football with which they continue to win hearts worldwide went as many as 49 games unbeaten and earning the tag of “The Invincibles”. If there was one man who made the biggest impression while the Gunners went on to win innumerable accolades for such a remarkable feat was none other than Thierry Henry! Ask him what he considered to be his biggest asset back then and unsurprisingly he’d utter the four letter word – P-A-C-E!
Henry came across more like a gust of wind than just another pacy striker. Henry’s ball-control was unparalleled and the pace with which he guided and slided it made it a lethal combination of masterclass control and breathtaking pace coupled with his elegant touch which used to be even better than… I dare say Lionel Messi!
Rating - 9/10
2) The Art of dumbfounding:
Lionel Messi: When it comes to the art of dumbfounding or exuding eye-popping skills, Lionel Messi is second to none. The manner in which the Argentinian wriggles and scrabbles around the ball leaves his marker hexed and hypnotized. There’s no joy in the world for any football fan than to watch his god doing what he does best… amaze and enlighten! Infact, it seems like the ball is battened to his foot at all times and the pace with which he dribbles, it’s like he’s letting out all the wrath right in the face of the defender who’s been handed the dreadful task of keeping him at bay. Cutting through the defense is a routine job and that baneful run where he starts off slow and slowly picks up pace, gradually leaving light to shame makes his marker skip a beat or two. How can one forget the vintage Messi show where with his assiduous solo runs left, right and centre of the park, he makes the football ground look like his hunting ground with chasers falling prey to his ebullience.
Rating - 10/10
Thierry Henry: The Wizard Of Highbury during his prime was regarded as the most feared striker in the world for multiple reasons, the biggest of course, being his mastery over the ball, taming and enslaving his opposition in the process. Henry didn’t like to play it fancy, he was more of a natural player who could tear past the opposition using his mercurial pace coupled with surreal ball control, twisting and turning his way past every obstacle to fire home yet another wonder goal. The most effective weapon in Henry’s arsenal was his ‘quick feet’ with which he could make the ball dance to his tunes to perfection and make the defenders follow suit! Henry was peerless when it came to scoring screamers and whenever you saw the great one with the ball, it seemed like something big was right around the corner… the buzz and the excitement ostensible among the Highbury faithful, the cognoscenti and the laymen alike.
Rating - 9/10
Lionel Messi: To find a flaw in the best player in the world today is next to impossible but at the end of the day, inspite of wowing his fans with his supernatural abilities and blindfolding his detractors with his unparagoned consistency and utopian goal-scoring record, if there is one facet of his game he can still improve on is the set-piece situations. His long ranged free-kicks lack that venom which his present day rivals like Ronaldo and even Van Persie possess and there have been questions raised on his heading ability… not that he’s a bad header but when you’re competing for the best in the world crown, every move will be scrutinized. His height doesn’t help much in set-pieces either and that makes it easier for the defenders to clear the danger.
Rating - 7/10
Thierry Henry: Henry on the other hand was better equipped for set-pieces having the natural advantage of height and a relatively muscular build. The prodigious French legend was one of the very best when it came to taking free-kicks and driving home long ranged shots. He was also in a league of his own when it came to converting from unimaginable angles and deceived the opposition with his vintage curling balls with relative ease. Yes, Henry had been criticized at times for his heading ability, but to be fair he wasn’t as bad as he was being portrayed by some factions of the attention grabbing headliners.
Rating - 8.5/10
4) International games:
Lionel Messi: Messi hogged the limelight after he scored a humdinger, reminiscent of the one scored by the great Maradona but to be fair, there hasn’t been much to brag about when it comes to international games for Messi. Some say it’s because he doesn’t receive the kind of service he does from his club mates in the form of Xavi, Iniesta and others while others believe he doesn’t fit properly in the Argentinian setup and at times is the victim of too much competition up front with the likes of Aguero, Tevez, Higuan among others. Whatever may be the case, it’s a fact that he has not been able to emulate for his country what he has managed to do for his club.
Rating - 6.5/10
Thierry Henry: Henry on the other hand proved himself on the international stage and went on to become France’s all time top-scorer. He is a world cup winner and has never ceased to amaze his fans even while plying his trade in a different setup altogether, not as much as he did with Arsenal, but he did make sure he never gave any chance to his detractors to bog him down. Just like Messi, Henry had the honour of playing alongside superstars like Zidane, Vieira, Ribery among others but he made sure with his game he maintained his sheen.
Rating - 7.5/10