Recently I was involved in a discussion with some friends over whether Brazilian star Kaka was a better player than his Real Madrid team mate Ronaldo. Who cares shouted another member of our group, they are only fighting for the title of second best player in the world. Discussion over. We all knew who is the global number one: Lionel Messi, no argument.
But it hasn’t always been like that – particularly from the British media with its Premier League-centric views. He was deemed to be not physical enough to withstand the pressures of the best league in the world, he never performed in the big games – his poor goal scoring record against English teams was proof enough of this and to top it all off he never scored any headers.
That winning header scored against Manchester United in last season’s Champions League final was more than enough to silence his critics. He finished the season as top goalscorer in that tournament with nine goals and he was also an integral part of the all-conquering Barcelona team that won a league and cup double to go with that European crown. He scored 23 goals in La Liga and 6 more in the Copa del Rey, including one in the 4-1 victory in the final against Bilbao. But it is not just his goals that make Messi the player he is. He provides numerous assists for his team mates and causes panic among opposing defenders with his close control, perfect balance, a low centre of gravity that makes it difficult to knock him off the ball, wonderful dribbling skills and a tremendous turn of pace that often those leaves defenders for dead.
Despite his wonderful club form all year, Messi has received some criticism for his performances for his national side, Argentina. But this may also be a little harsh. After all, he has won the World Cup at under-20 level in 2005; an Olympic gold medal in 2008 and he was a runner-up in the Copa America in 2007. It is true that Argentina suffered in their qualifying section for the World Cup in 2010 but this may be due to the lack of quality in the side, as well as the fact that the current coach, Diego Maradona, is unsure how to build a team around his young star. This of course is ironic as Messi has been likened to the world’s greatest ever player – the style of play, the goals and the dribbling rather than the off the field antics – and who is to say that he won’t lead the albiceleste to another unlikely World Cup victory next summer just like his hero before him?
Premier League-centric views: Only one viewpoint (from the Premier League in England)
was deemed to be: Was viewed as / seen as; it was decided that
to withstand: To put up with, to tolerate, to survive (the tough treatment)
proof : Evidence
to top it all off : as well as (more emphatic)
to silence his critics: To prove himself, to answer the criticisms against yiou
all-conquering: Beat everyone, never lose
a low centre of gravity: Difficult to be knocked over, to have good balance
turn of pace: To accelerate, to move away from defenders very quickly
leaves defenders for dead:To move away from defenders very quickly making them look foolish
a little harsh: The criticism is a little too much
has been likened to: Has been compared to
the off the field antics: Problems away from the pitch (in Maradona’s case these included drugs, paternity suits and depression)
albiceleste: Nickname for the Argentinian national side (referring to the colours of their national jersey)