Friday, 30 March 2012

Messi vs Everyone!

Whether or not the below quote exchange is true, what matters is it's funny...and possibly true.

Cristiano Ronaldo: "I feel like I have been sent by God to play football"
Lionel Messi: "Well I didn't send him"

Say what you like (and we all do, often in terms which would lead to a lengthy prison sentence for either GBH or sexual harassment) about Messi, that's a dam good quote.

So, first question: Is Lionel Messi actually God?

In all probability, no. I'm not here to provoke a mass religious debate, just a mass footballing many ways, I don't know which is more dangerous. What I will say is that when Messi runs, leaving sub-standard defenders on the ground, he does seem to emit a sort of ethereal glow. The man has an ability to make a 90,000 capacity stadium suddenly silent, with the collective intake of breath powerful enough to great a black hole. In seconds, your team could be ripped apart at a moment almost at Messi's choosing, as the chants cease and the positive atmosphere around the stadium suddenly becomes fraught with tension.This was often the case on Wednesday night at the San Siro every time Lil' Lionel touched the ball. Although the game finished goalless, Messi's presence was almost tangible as the raucous cauldron became quieter than a Coldplay gig. So although not as powerful as some divine, omnipotent being, we can argue that Messi is as potent as four alternative rock artists from London.

Verdict: As good as Coldplay, not as good as God.

Second question: Is Lionel Messi better than Cristiano Ronaldo?

Are you kidding me? I want to draw a graph which plots the relationship between those who say Ronaldo is superior to those who say that the Premier League is better than La Liga. In 95% of cases, people who say both are morons. I am not going to hide my allegiances to Manchester United, but the former Red Devil, good as he is, is nowhere near as good as the Argentine. For all his goals, for all the stats, there is very little to compare the two with.

Ronaldo scores more headers.
Valid point, but being a foot taller helps. Messi has made it pretty clear that he doesn't need to score with his head (please don't mention Rome 2009).
Ronaldo can score free kicks.
So could David Beckham and Alexander Kolarov, it does not mean the two are world-beating players.

Could Ronaldo put in a performance like the one Messi put in against Bayer Leverkusen earlier this month? Messi scored five goals that night and deserved more.
Could Ronaldo dominate a game of the highest magnitude? Cristiano has made a habit of putting in titanic displays against less titanic teams like Real Zaragoza, Levante and Fulham, whereas as time and time again, Messi transcends his peers when the pressure is at its greatest. See the 2009 and 2011 Champions League finals, see last years semi-final first leg against Ronaldo's Real Madrid. The Portuguese was anonymous while Messi scored one of the goals of our generation.

Proof enough? Verdict: Messi.

Third question: Is Lionel Messi better than Diego Maradona?
This is the sticking point for many. Almost since birth, Lionel has had comparisons to his countries greatest export. No, not the Total Wipeout assault course, but Diego Maradona. The players are so similiar in many ways, small men relying on guile and technique, not brute strength. Both can/could score goals almost at will, either with a rasping shot, through unparalleled technique or with a ball seemingly glued to his tiny, tiny feet. Both have even scored contentious goals with their hands.

In terms of personality, there is no question who had the more magnetic personality. Maradona almost demanded as much attention off the pitch as on it. Described by a few as "the little boy who never grew up", Diego struggled with the burden placed upon his shoulders. Although he often rose to the occasion to touch greatness with his own mortal hands - literally - the man was just as likely to irritate as to inspire. As Maradona grew older, his antics became more and more erratic, from off-field clashes, to drug allegations, to health scares and back again. His latest misdemeanor saw him confront opposition fans during his latest managerial attempt in the Middle East. No comment.

His previous role in management wasn't without controversy either. At the World Cup of 2010, Diego seemed determined to cocoon his side from the wrath of an unpredictable and expectant media by attracting all the publicity for himself. His tactics may have contributed to the quiet tournament Messi had. Despite being the star attraction, little Messi seemed shackled by Maradona's insistence on shackling his sides natural flair and talent. Since then, the last frontier between Messi and footballing immortality has been his lack of success at international level. In mitigation, his record in blue and white is distinctly average. But so what? What should we read into international performances? Are we - in many ways - as good as the people we work with? No man - even Messi - is an island.

Compared to Maradona, Messi is quiet, approachable and warm. Always playing with a slightly malevolent smile on his face, Messi is one of the nicest guys in the sport. Not that that matters, but I'm building a shrine here, and I thought it best to throw in his dazzling personality. Next I'll outline all his charity work!

Verdict: It's tough, but football - like many things e.g. hairstyles and dental hygiene - has advanced since 1986. Those misty eyed, grey haired followers of generations past will tell us how good it was back in their day, but as Daft Punk would say, today's footballers are harder (hmm), better, faster and stronger than in the past. Maradona's opposition throughout his heyday were players like Peter Reid while Messi competes against Xabi Alonso and Wesley Sneijder. Is the tag of best of all time dependent on opposition or outright talent? In both cases, in my opinion, Messi may well be the winner.

Fourth question: Is Lionel Messi the best player of all time?

Who else is there?
Cruyff? Nearly, but he never quite held an audience like Messi does. I never smugly laugh in exasperation when watching Cruyff videos, but I do with Messi, a trait which often gets me kicked out of bars and houses around the world. Although half of our country forget it, owning Eurosport does not mean one knows everything about La Liga or foreign football, so I won't pretend to, because I'm not that self-righteous. I'm also not the kind of person who is convinced that putting "FACT" after a point makes said point true.

But Messi is better than Cruyff. FACT.

Pele? There is no doubting that Pele is the greatest centre forward of all time, but that's only because I don't really know what Messi's best position is. Pele's scoring record was phenomenal, with over 1200 goals in his professional career, with 77 for his country. Perhaps Messi and Maradona are lucky in that their position allows them to dominate games in a way Pele never could. Pele was - in many ways - employed to put the ball in the back of the net, although he did do so much more. But is Robin Van Persie the best player in the Premier League? Is Alan Shearer the best Premier League player of all time? In my opinion ( not "FACT"), the answer to both is no.

Pele will always be remembered and may well be seen as the best player of all time, if you want proof, just ask him. He won three world cups with Brazil, but he had players like Jairzinho, Carlos Alberto and Garrincha throughout his career, Messi has Jonas Gutierrez and Esteban Cambiasso.

I assign very little weight to the importance of an ever-decreasing (in importance) international game. Therefore, for me, Messi trumps Pele just in the way he can control games.

Emile Heskey?
Probably just Messi.

Fifth question: Is Lionel Messi better than Lionel Richie?
Yes, end of discussion.

Comparisons are often skewed by our own biases and desires to live through the presence of greatness; my generation will always beat yours because beauty is in the eye of the holder. Football - and indeed history - is not for us to pick and choose who competes against whom and when. Different generations, players and teams mean mundane, irrelevant debates like this will always taken place, and maybe I'm just writing this to get people to read what I have to say.

Nevertheless, Messi is something special. Messi, although not as good as God, could definitely give him/her a game.

No comments:

Post a Comment