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Tuesday, 10 January 2012

The Man who would be Messi



Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’or for the third consecutive year, one of four players to win this award three times. His talent is extraordinary. Still at the early age of 23, he is considered to be one of the greatest players there has ever been. Managers, fans, players and pundits are united in agreeing that his abilities are on a level with the likes of Pele, Maradona and Zidane. He has won everything to be won in football at club level. Where, we ask ourselves, will the little magician be in five years? Could Messi become even better when he reaches what is considered to be the prime of a footballer’s career?

Starting in the lowly suburbs of Rosario, Argentina – his abilities were noticed even from the age of 5. His body however, did not experience the same growth as his footballing prowess. A growth defect was discovered whilst playing in the youth team of Newells Old Boys. The price of treatment was too much for the Argentinian club. Thankfully, for all of us, Barcelona stepped in to whisk the youngster and his family to Catalonia in order to continue his development and receive the best treatment. Their faith has been well repaid.
                                                Top left, a god in the making. He's tiny!!

Statistically, Messi is unbelievable. Only Cristiano Ronaldo comes close. In the 2008-09 season, at only 19, Messi managed 38 goals and 18 assists in 51 games. Barcelona won the treble that year. He surpassed his goal scoring record the next year when he managed 47 goals; and then again last season with 53. This year, unsurprisingly, he has more goals than games with a remarkable 31 in 28 games, with 14 assists. He is unstoppable, in every sense.



What makes Messi that little bit more special is his humble attitude. Always smiling, it is a joy to watch him have fun on the field. Too often we see arrogance and anger in football, and although this cutthroat attitude is deemed a positive attribute by many, surely there is no greater pleasure than watching a player visibly enjoy himself as he overcomes all challenges put before him? His dedication of his latest player of the year award to his teammate Xavi is testament to his brilliant professionalism and likable demeanour. It also highlights how much he appreciates the efforts of colleagues such as Xavi, iniesta and Villa in his rise to stardom.



For all Messi’s brilliance, there are those who work behind the scenes. Xavi and Iniesta for example, are to Barcelona as cogs and working parts are to a clock. The ‘Velcro gnomes’ are the brains behind the outfit, passing their opposition into oblivion.  Their influence is evident in Messi’s game, as they allow the little Argentine to express himself. As a team, Barcelona are unparalleled. With their togetherness and collective abilities, they complement each other in every way – with Messi the jewel in the crown.
Pep Guardiola said in 2008, "Xavi is a player who has the Barcelona DNA: someone who has the taste for good football, someone who is humble and someone who has loyalty to this club. From the first moment I saw him play, I knew he would become the brain behind Barcelona for many years to come. He plays very, very well & much better than I ever played even when I was at my best."
With players like Xavi behind him, it gives Messi the best possible foundation in order to push his personal abilities and put into practice pieces of ingenuity other players can only dream about.

             The passing is slow and methodical, but the end result is devastating

I will happily observe as Lionel Messi continues to write himself into the record books, smashing all records and obliterating defences for many years to come. My wish? To take my place in the towering echelons of the Camp Nou and see the Little Flea with my own eyes. Even then, I probably won’t believe what I’m seeing.

Pictures: Offside/L'Equipe, BBC
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