Lionel Messi: Fútbol’s Greatest Romanticizer.

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

Who would have expected Lionel to pull of those exquisite pieces of wizardry against Espanyol? Or those breathtaking goals against the Los Blancos? But, again that’s Lionel.
You can expect the unexpected from him. He can bend light, if he wants to.

Lionel Messi is the impossibility in this impossible universe. No human can do what he does.
You can liken him with Clark Kent who tries to hide from people that he’s Superman.
Leo is football’s Superman. He’s the symbol of perfection.
Vince Lombardi once said: 

“Perfection is not attainable but, if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” 

Leo makes you think about those words.
We may not find a perfect black body or a gas which is perfect (follows the ideal gas rule) but, we have the perfect prototype of a footballer.
A man who literally kisses and caresses the ball with his feet.
Watching him play is similar to acknowledging a master class by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Wins and losses become trivial, insubstantial matters in these moments.
Just watching him on the pitch unfurl his artistry is a win in itself.

lionel-messi-celebrates-barcelonas-comeback-vs-psg-with-fans
Lionel Messi is football’s Superman.

And it’s not just his resplendent level of play, it’s also the emotions he evokes. The sheer joy and exhilaration you experience watching him defy the laws of physics is unmatched.
You experience a wave of emotions when you watch him play. A kind of nostalgia and hope is lit in you. Another player capable of this was El Diego.
Maradona was also an emotional player. He played with fire in his belly. However, he didn’t know how to channel his emotions.
Lionel, on the other hand trumps him here. The calmness with which he goes about his work is unrealistic, all this considering the burden of expectations on his shoulders.
This emblematic characteristic places him on the pinnacle of the footballing world. Eduardo Galeano, the famed Uruguayan writer sums it up beautifully:

“I like Messi because he doesn’t think he’s Messi.”

Messi has been the most consistent performer of his generation. He turns out every three days with even more intensity than the previous time and, you can almost expect him to make you jump out of your seat screaming in astonishment. Messi tops Maradona in consistency. He does outrageous things with such eye-popping consistency, that it almost feels like mainstream stuff. He makes the difficult look simple. It’s like trying to ride a bicycle for the first time; At first it looks simple, as if you’ll get the balance right. But, you’re bound to fall. But, the difference here is, Leo wont’t fail. Jorge Valdano put it beautifully:

“Maradona was Maradona sometimes, Messi is Maradona everyday.”

 

nintchdbpict0002944011992-e1484837980561.jpg
Messi has been the most consistent player of his generation. 

He deserves one thing a lot, and that is not being compared to anyone.
And we haven’t been fair to him in this aspect. Comparing him with anyone is futile, and above all it’s an insult to the game itself. The most perfect manifestation of the game being compared with mere mortals is a sin.

Like the Catalan commentator said:

“We should thank our mothers for giving birth to us and giving us the opportunity to watch Messi play.”

Enjoy him as much as you can. There won’t be anyone like him ever again.
The purest form of fútbol. 

9f541968d959a8a9c7aeb34e0e2ac6fe

Advertisements

Sergio Busquets: The Silent Genius

FC Barcelona is a team of giants. Football’s biggest superstars are often seen wearing the symbolic scarlet and blue. The cataclysmic front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar Jr. is the most talked about. Scoring a multitude of goals and tearing apart opposition defenses with astonishing consistency is bound to get you attention. And, playing for one of the biggest clubs in the world, the newspaper columns will always find a way to get you in. However, that hasn’t been the case with a lanky midfielder who has been pulling the strings for the Catalans since his debut in 2008.

Christened ‘The Octopus Of Badia’, Sergio Busquets Burgos has been a critical part of Barcelona’s dominance in recent years. There has never been a good time to write about him. He’s unbelievably consistent for that. On an individual scale, Busquets may seem inconspicuous but, his significance must be assessed on the way he leverages the team collectively. Vicente Del Bosque gave a wonderful insight into what Busquets caters, to both Barcelona and Spain:

“If I could be any player in the world, I would like to be Sergio Busquets. He is the first to get the team moving. When he plays, the football is more fluid. With Busquets in the team, our football is better.” 

Stats don’t portray the picture which Busquets paints for his team. He’s beyond statistical analysis. Abstract. His technical prowess is of the highest order but, what stands out is his mental speed. With the game evolving at a fast pace, space has become a vital part of the game. You have less time to receive, control and play the ball. Busquets’ speed of thought allows him to keep the game flowing. Xavi has said that Busquets is the best one touch player. He receives, controls and passes in one touch because of his speed of thought. He is constantly scrutinizing the field, when and where to go, opponent’s body movement, how to receive and release the ball and to whom. He does all this before he gets the ball. He’s like an extremely fast Rubik’s Cube solver who knows what his next set of moves will be and which colour will fall in a particular place.

Sergio is a calm and calculative player. You won’t seem him charging at players to win possession. And, this is an extremely difficult thing to do. Charging at players when not in position risks losing shape and organization, and leaving unchecked spaces, eventually deranging the balance of the team. A brilliant example of this is Messi’s goal against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the UCL Semi Final. When Diarra was blocked by Busquets, Messi wriggled into the space between Madrid’s defense and midfield which was to be patrolled by Diarra himself. Sergio Ramos swiftly stepped a few yards up the pitch, anticipating to cut Messi’s run short. Messi being the player he is, he exigently changed direction, and sneaked past Raul Albiol into space that Ramos would have been able to occupy had Diarra’s aberration not forced him into making one of his own. You can see the build up here:

Capture-1-A.png

Capture-2-A.png

capture-3-A.png

Capture-4-A.pngCapture-5-A.png

Capture 6.PNG
Messi scores.

Busquets doesn’t do this. Watch him carefully, when an opposition player wins back possession. All he does is take a few steps, not even towards the ball. Rather, he moves in the direction where the opposition player is looking to carry the ball. He reciprocates to not where the ball is but, where the ball will be. He moves towards the opponent’s targeted space and, not towards the opponent and the ball. He seldom makes the first tackle. He makes sure that he’s the one to make the winning tackle, and reorganizing possession. His positional sense and intelligence is unprecedented. That’s why Xabi Alonso said:

“How many times does Sergio Busquets tackle in his position? He’s so ahead of the game, he doesn’t need to.” 

Busquets has an inductive sense of space. It’s like there’s a radar in his head which allows him to analyze his surroundings and always take the right decision within micro seconds. He has an extremely rare ability to hold the ball with his back facing his own goal and under extant pressure from the opposition. An amalgamation of intelligence, technical adroitness, tactical awareness and physicality enables him to maneuver out of tricky situations and, gives his teammates time to reorganize back into shape.

Despite all these, Busquets is never given the credit he deserves. He doesn’t have the flashy skills to make people jump out of their seats. Neither does he have spectacular goals to show. But, he has a footballing brain which is 5 seconds ahead of everyone on the pitch. Today Busquets’ quality is much like America’s gun control problem: if you still have not realized it, you probably never will.

Sergio-Busquets-passing-ball-La-Liga-match-between-FC-Barcelona-Athletic-Bilbao-January-2016.jpg

 


 

 

Xavi: The Maestro of Space and Time. 

“When God created space, Xavi was already there.” 

The 5’7″ Spanish Maestro exerted an outsize influence on Barça and Spain’s football with his movement, his ability to play in and out of tight spaces, and his aberrant calm and anticipation. 2 seasons since he left for Qatar, the Catalans still haven’t found his successor. 

In a game, many things happen by accident. Xavi is the antidote to all that. With him, you could bet your head he won’t mess up. 

Like a chess player, he saw the endgame 10 moves before it happened. 

Xavi was the game. Everything gyrated around him. 

He’s the only player who doesn’t look down at the ball while it’s moving towards his feet. 

The ball seemed stuck to his feet by a yo-yo string – he pinged it around and it kept coming back. The people playing around him constantly gave him the ball, as if requiring him to venerate each move. Xavi hogged the ball selfishly, and offered goal-scoring chances selflessly. 

He could weave passes through a needle lost in the bushes. The pass in the 2009 UCL Final stands as a testimony to this. 

His lusciously-weighted aerial pass that assisted the second goal – it stayed cleared of the 6’2″ Rio Ferdinand and the 6’5″ Edwin van der Sar, to be headed into the back of the net by a 5’7″ Lionel Messi. 

His game was about a search for space. It necessitated constant movement. Throughout the course of a game, Xavi ran more than almost any other player. Just because he made it look easy, doesn’t mean it was easy. You could try keeping your eyes on him for an entire game – and he’s still fool you. He seemed to drift through, making shortpass after short pass, occasionally throwing off his invisibility cloak to point out where he wanted the ball.

Then he’d make a trenchant pass – twenty yards or two, it doesn’t matter – and the rhythm of the game changes. He’d create a chance, or maybe even a goal. Then, the whirligig starts again. 

Xavi was the human accelerator, governing the pace of the game by putting his foot on and off the gas pedal.

He wasn’t a highlight-reel friendly footballer. He didn’t do flashy skills. Neither did he perform lung-bursting heroics. 

All he did was pass and be in the right place. He did the simple things right. And that’s the most difficult thing to do. 

Xavi’s departure forced Messi, Iniesta and Busquets to tweak their game. They had to make adjustments to fill the void. Yet, it’s somehow there. 

Barça acquired Xavi for free but, have to shell close to a 100M to replace him. 

But, the fact still remains that he’s irreplaceable. 

Messi turns 30: Fútbol redefined.

It was 10th March, 2007. The world watched with bated breath as Barcelona took on Real Madrid.

Everyone was looking forward to the mouth-watering clash between Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldinho. Little did they know that there was something more in store.

Van Nistelrooy put Madrid in the lead twice. But, it was the diminutive 19 year old from Rosario, Lionel Messi who put Barcelona on level terms. However, everything seemed to fall apart when Oleguer was sent off, reducing the Catalans to 10 men.

Sergio Ramos’ goal, 17 minutes from full time seemed like the final nail in the coffin.

But, the bandana donning Messi had other ideas.

In stoppage time, La Pulga latched onto a pass by Ronaldinho, dribbled past two defenders and slotted it home past a helpless Cassillas to complete a hat-trick and salvage a point for Barcelona.

As the commentator said, “This will be remembered as the Lionel Messi match. 19 years of age and gets a hat-trick against Real Madrid”. So has it turned out to be.

People at the Camp Nou and football fans all around the world knew that they were watching something special.

He had outclassed and overshadowed Van Nistelrooy and Ronaldinho, all by himself.

With that goal, Barcelona moved onto the top of the Liga (tied with Sevilla), while the Los Blancos slipped to the 4th spot.

10 years down the lane, the greasy haired bandana donning Messi looks more composed, more manly. He now sports a beard, or rather a mane. He’s covered in tattoos. Even dyed his hair platinum blonde once.

However, one thing remains the same; his love for the game.

You can still see that 19 year old running at defenses when he picks up the ball. Terrorising defenders on his way, ruining careers.

But, at the same time inducing emotions that we never felt before.

Weaving past players, making them look like training cones, threading eye-gasmic passes, scoring blinders – Leo made us crave for more. He became the medicine we needed to fix everything going wrong in our lives.

He kisses and caresses the ball at his feet. And, it’s at these moments that wins and losses become trivial, insubstantial matters. Just watching him on the pitch unfurl his virtuosity, is a win in itself. Watching Leo encompasses you with a wave of emotions. A kind of nostalgia and hope is lit.

Lionel Messi is the science of uncertainty, and the art of probability. He’s the impossibility in this impossible universe.

Watching him play is similar to acknowledging a masterclass by Da Vinci. The ball being his brush and, the pitch his canvas.

In my opinion, he’s probably greater than Einstein.

Einstein wanted to decode space-time. Leo controls it.

Despite all these, he knows how to channel his emotions. He knows how to use it for his benefit.

Being battered everyday by the media, he turns out every 3 days so that we can treat our eyes to his resplendent play. He carries on, despite being abused and spat on by his country men.

He gets walloped for not being able to recreate a myth.

A myth that his countryman Diego Maradona won the World Cup singlehandedly.

Yet, he caries on – giving us moments to cherish.

For everything he’s done, he deserves not being compared to anyone. And again, we haven’t been fair to him in this aspect. Comparing him with anyone is futile, and above all, it’s an insult to the game itself.

The most perfect manifestation of the game of the game being compared to mere mortals is a sin. The purest form of football.

He turns 30 today. Enjoy and watch him as much as you can because, that day is not very far away, when he waves to the stands and disappears into the tunnel for the last time.

I’d just finish this with Johan’s words:

“Thank God Messi exists”