I’m never a big fan of reacting to events in the footballing world immediately after they happen. However, when such events compel me to write my first blog, I feel I should respond to the desire within, and discuss what Lionel Messi means to football in 2010.
“There are no words to describe that performance, Lionel Messi is out of this planet. He’s so far ahead of everyone else on the pitch and even historically.”
However, the quote above is from one Ossie Ardilles. Simple Argentinean superstar from one angle, but more importantly, a man who has played with a young Diego Maradona. Whilst the debate of ‘World’s Best Player’ frequently becomes tiresome due to most factors of comparison being completely irrelavent (Rooney is more agressive, Ronaldo is better at free kicks etc. etc.), Diego Maradona provides the perfect cornerstone of Argentinian wizardry to compare the current object of world football’s affection to.
So, the case for Maradona. Comparing individual moments of trickery and brilliance and the pair’s 400+ goals would be fruitless. THE goal in 1986 probably wins hands-down, if only for importance, but then I could probably melt YouTube with half of Messi’s goals from 2010 alone to argue the difference. The case for Maradona stems from what he achieved from 1984 onwards, and his world record transfer from Barcelona to Napoli; walking away from a super-team similar to one Lionel currently resides in, in favour of building a team from the doldrums of Southern Italy from rubble to glory. Napoli went from a relegation battle in 1983 to a Serie A and Coppa Italia double in 1986, to success in Europe in the UEFA Cup in 1989, and the cultural and religious icon that Maradona is to all Neopolitans to the present day is testament to the fact that this success was almost single-handedly down to Diego.
This statistic is unfortunate for the current apple of our collective eyes. Lionel Messi is from a different time, and whilst this enables his brilliance to be broadcast worldwide in the finest detail, building his legend with every viral video collection, Messi will always suffer from simply being unable to do what Diego did. To match Maradona’s achievements today would be the equivalent of Messi walking out on Barcelona at the end of the season, arriving at Sampdoria or even Hull City next season, taking them to a domestic title with his skill and talents alone within three years, with European success coming soon after. Even if we are able to see past the ridiculous nature of the transfer itself, the issue of Messi’s enormous value in both wages and fees shoot what is left of the example down in flames.
Therefore, since we live in an age where ‘money dominates football’ (as do cliches in football blogs, apparently), the question must be asked: What can Lionel Messi do in the coming seasons to truly write himself into the realms of history alongside Maradona?
Ironically, the answer may come from Maradona himself. The shambolic nature of Argentina’s qualifying campaign for South Africa was well-documented the world over. From Maradona’s tantrums at the media to Messi underperforming himself, it was a rocky ride that leaves Argentina lagging behind Brazil and the major European nations in most bookmakers favourites for tournament success. Maybe, if Lionel Messi can grip the tournament with both hands in a similar vein to his decimation of Arsenal’s backline this evening, South Africa 2010 could be his Napoli.
To take the attention of the world’s cameras away from the touchline when Argentina step out against Nigeria could be Lionel Messi’s greatest achievement so far.