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”