The Complexities of Lionel Messi, aka “Can there be too much of a good thing?”

“Jordan dominava o basquete assim como Messi domina o futebol. São passíveis de comparação.” Pep Guardiola.

Yep. Michael Jordan dominated basketball as Messi dominates football, indeed. And just as with Jordan, Messi comes with his own set of complexities that, if a coach isn’t careful, have the potential to become actual problems. And as with Jordan, there can be no doubt that Messi is the best player that any of us will ever see, to hell with those who say that he needs a World Cup. They’re wrong.

Sure, there might be some kid kicking a ball around somewhere who will make us say “Messi who,” but I doubt it, in the same way that, lo these many years hence, there has never been another Michael Jordan. But let’s put it another way:

You have this puppy, and it’s reallyreallyreallyreally cute. It does tricks that everybody loves, trick after trick after trick. He sits on your lap, you play in the yard and everything is groovy. You and that puppy are inseparable.

Then the puppy grows into an 80-pound lap dog that is still doing what it wants. It isn’t the cute little puppy any longer, and the tricks don’t quite come off in the same way that they did when your little guy was …. well …. a little guy.

So now what?

And to be clear, no, there isn’t a problem yet …. sort of. Or even a hint of any problem.

I remember Messi roaring onto the pitch in his Barca debut, wearing the No. 30, looking like a squat Energizer bunny ricocheting off of everyone and everything. I wondered if the promise was going to be realized as he subbed for Deco against Espanyol. This was Ronaldinho’s team, after all. Against Albacete he scored his premiere first-team goal from a typically amazing assist from Ronaldinho that Messi finished with flair, via deft rainbow into the far corner, struck almost off the dead run. It was a remarkable debut goal and it’s safe to say that, hype aside, NOBODY would have predicted the astonishing stats this player, who many consider to already be the best of all time, would deliver.

But in addition to the goals, there have been the “What the hell did I just see” moments, the almost-magics that make even opposing defenders give him a consoling pat as if to say, “Dang, dude. Sorry that shot didn’t go in. Even I wanted to see that goal.” Like Michael Jordan (with whom comparisons abound), Messi works to improve his game. He has added passing to his arsenal of tricks, perfect passes that find teammates in stride and in perfect position, as with Jordan developing a fadeaway jumper. When you think of his eventual integration with Alexis Sanchez, this is one of the most appealing things. And imagine, if we keep Villa and Fabregas rounds into form, the feast potential.

So again, what’s the problem? Good question.

Let’s remember that this is all hypothetical. Absolutely none of this stuff could transpire, or it all could. Because who ever thought, when I first began talking about selling Ronaldinho, that I and others would be so right, so quickly. You just never know.

And as glorious as his season was, chronicled here with love by nzm, There is also a part of me that would rather see him with 40 goals and 30 assists than 70+ goals, flanked by a couple of players with 20+ goals, as I think that makes us a more dangerous and diverse team. But that’s another story, as I think that as Messi ages, he has the potential to develop into a Ronaldinhoesque player in his “second career,” if you will. But that’s another future. For this one, let’s have a look at a few of potential Messi complexities, via bullet points:

Too much of a good thing is dangerous

The greater Messi’s personal glory and gaudy statistics, the worse the team has done. This makes sense, actually, when you consider that one-player teams are more difficult to stop. The Chicago Bulls faced the “Jordan Rules,” in which opponents did everything possible to stop Jordan from scoring, believing that other guys couldn’t beat them. It wasn’t until the Bulls got other guys who could beat those other teams, that they began to win championships. But is it a coincidence that Messi’s lowest scoring tally of the past 4 years has also seen the most success?

It must be said that injuries forced The Messi Show upon us. I don’t believe, had Villa been healthy and Pedro not taken so long to come fully back to form, that Messi would have had 73 goals. I also think that we would have had 6 trophies, not 4.

It also means that people need to temper expectations. I think that even Guardiola or Vilanova would say that Messi scoring 73 goals isn’t the best thing for the club. It too easily becomes “Stop the little dude. What do you mean which little dude?!”

He limits players you can sign

Lionel Messi does what he wants, when and where he wants. Everyone gets him the ball, everyone waits to see if he wants the ball. When he gets the ball, you have to be ready, because sometimes you will get it back. No telling when, because his otherworldly skills mean that it can come at an absurd time, from an equally absurd angle. The complexity there is that this is now Lionel Messi’s team. Perhaps, as with Michael Jordan, a team really can only have one superstar (no, Scottie Pippen wasn’t, despite what his mom will tell you). This isn’t to say that a team with a bona-fide superstar can’t have world-class players. We do. (Whether Villa is a superstar is another argument for another time.)

But if you look at the list of people who have had difficulties playing with the new, dominant Messi, every time a marquee attacking name comes up as a potential signatory, you think to yourself, “Can he play with Messi,” rather than the other way around. “This is as it should be,” most would argue. Not me. I’d ask “Can they play together?”

Let’s forget for a moment the “what if Ibrahimovic wasn’t an asshat big enough to cover the Antarctic”, and ask ourselves about the complexities that precipitated his departure. Plain and simple, he was another guy used to doing whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He had about zero interest in learning to play with Messi, to his detriment, it must be added. It’s the “too many chefs” theory that we often see with Dream Teams, or Galacticos. Who defers? Ibrahimovic had to, and that didn’t fill his big, stupid heart with song.

As Messi grew increasingly dominant in the offense, Samuel Eto’o began to have difficulties finding space and his usual operating room, sometimes gravitating to the wing. “What’s that little guy doing there, and why won’t he give me the ball?” No, this wasn’t the reason that Eto’o left us. Had he stayed, would the complexity have become an actual problem? Impossible to say.

David Villa and Thierry Henry, both used to being The Man for their respective teams, had to eke out space on the left wing to work within a Messi-dominated system. The newest additions are Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. With the latter, no problem. With the former, now that he is acquiring the confidence sufficient to play his game, you are beginning to see those “Hey, I was going there” moments. How the dynamic between the two develops will be interesting to see, particularly as to whether Messi in any way limits the full capabilities of Sanchez. At present, the telepathy they are developing brings to mind intriguing/terrifying for opponents possibilities that should make us all smile. But we haven’t seen the fullest flower of Sanchez yet.

Isaiah says ….

“Your best player gets the ball, you big dummy! What’s the matter with you?!”

I’ll buy that, except that match in and match out, Messi isn’t always the best player on the pitch. Further, if your best player always has the ball, you become pretty easy to defend, don’t you?

Euler says ….

I don’t know if I’d frame it as a case for why he’s “bad” for the club per se. The issue to me seems closer to what are some of the trade offs of having Messi. No player is perfect. Not even the best of all time. For example it’s ironic when people discuss Maradona as the greatest of all time. There were large trade offs teams had to make to build around him. First and foremost was the he was largely undependable and, as large as his accomplishments were, he squandered enormous amounts of talent through his behavior.

Cruijff was a genius. But his mercurial nature destroyed an Ajax project far sooner than needed when he left the team in a fit….For example, one of Messi’s best and most endearing qualities is his love for the game. But this is also a major reason why he never rests….Compared to most of the other greats the negatives with Messi on the whole are likely more minor. Especially compared to Maradona and Cruijff.

Which brings me to my next point ….

Exhibiting tyrannical tendencies as regards rest and playing time

Is Messi a tyrant? Look at the first definition of the word, from Webster’s:
1a: an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution

I kinda love this one, because Messi is like a perfect piece of luggage, when you think about it. Every time you go somewhere, you use the same suitcase. You know how much it will hold, how much you can pack. There is a comfortable familiarity with it, and you take it everywhere. Rest it? Retire it? Why? It’s a perfect suitcase, and always does the job.

But what if that piece of luggage is a trunk and you only need a weekend bag? Put another way, is there ever a time when the club doesn’t need Messi on the pitch? Are you better off putting aside the nuclear deterrent, or leaving it out to brandish? Messi is such a danger that even when he is on the pitch, sleepwalking through a match, he might get it together for one run, The Run That Will Kill Your Team. The danger is when that run never materializes.

But at that time, when everybody in the stadium is marking him, he should be making his teammates more free in their movements and aggression, right? In theory, yes. In practice, it’s another matter because they, too, think that this possession could be The One. The roots of Messidependencia are deep. And he keeps getting the ball. And chance after chance is squandered until suddenly the match is over, the magic hasn’t happened and this seemingly sullen little dude just walks off the pitch. And I say “seemingly sullen” because we understand how much Messi wants to win, all the time. We have seen the tears in unguarded moments, the 1000-yard stares that say “You will die next time.” He cares. Deeply. It’s that caring that makes him want to be on the pitch, all the time.

Guardiola wouldn’t rest him. Will Vilanova? Why wouldn’t you find a way to have your best player on the pitch all the time? It makes him happy, makes the team better and it’s the easiest solution. Ah, happy. That’s all you need is an unhappy superstar, right? And all it takes is something so simple: playing time, with a player for whom football is like oxygen. So you give your best player, who is coincidentally just about the greatest ever, playing time. What can it hurt?

The player, as fatigued muscles are more easily injured. Or the team (more on this later). Or let’s say the player has learned how to take care of himself, and takes “rest breaks” during a match, marshaling his energies for a few big pushes, rather than being a constant danger. What then, and what of the team that at times almost looks as if it doesn’t know what to do with itself. The club has played without Messi, and been fine. It needs to learn that lesson. And I won’t even get into the notion of it being fine for one player to not give 100 percent all of the time. Because for me, yonder lies madness. We all read the newspaper that it was part of the Messi plan to not play the entire pitch, to not run and use as much energy as he usually does. But after seeing the all-pitch Messi in the Copa Final, it’s hard not to get woozy with rapture.

Something else worth thinking about, even as it is unthinkable — what happens when Messi, like Ronaldinho, faces a time when those magical first 10 steps become a not-so-magical 6 steps? Dunno. Good question.

Potential headache for Tito Vilanova

Tito Vilanova, I believe, was very carefully chosen. Whoever Guardiola’s successor was going to be, is inheriting an exceptionally talented dog who has been allowed free rein as a puppy. And he will have some decisions to make that risk damaging that dog’s psyche.

Guardiola came in after two trophyless seasons under Frank Rijkaard. He had nowhere to go but up. That he did so in a rocket to the moon way was not only exemplary, but impossible to argue with. How can you question a coach who came in, said “Do it my way and we win,” then led you to unprecedented success, and 14 of 18 trophies in all competitions, including two Champions League wins and a pair of Ligas? You can’t. Period.

The problem is when that next dude comes in. What can he say, after all that success? “Um, do what I say and uh …. you’ve already won everything, haven’t you?” Does the possibility exist for player rebellion? Depends, mostly on what the club’s best player does. Vilanova is an excellent, perfectly chosen selection precisely because of that continuity. The question remains, what will he do with his best player?

I need to stress right now that Messi has heretofore evinced absolutely zero tendencies in any rebellious regard. He has even had to put up with a blithering-yet-sainted idiot of a coach in Diego Maradona as his national team coach and still, he has been the perfect team player. The possibility of a Messi-sparked rebellion is exceedingly remote/verging on impossible, based on the player’s history. But questioning can be enough sometimes, to inhibit an athlete’s giving that 1000% necessary, that full commitment that is essential for success. Messi runs headlong into packs of defenders because he wants the team that saved his career to have as much success as it can. Individual accolades are, for a player who has a million of them, a distant second to team glory.

Now what happens when that player thinks that a coach isn’t the one to continue that glory? We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it, which will, hopefully, be never. With Maradumber, it wasn’t a problem, but that glory was never really there, right? Even then, however, Messi never, ever said a word. He just wanted the ball.

He changes the way the team plays

The battles over my contention that Messi doesn’t give 100% are well-documented. People posted a piece from Sport, laying out that his seeming laggardly play is in fact part of the grand design to keep him healthy and on the pitch, with “Ah-HA, you dumbass!” zeal. Just know that I am unconvinced that this is the best policy

As a neutral sees it, or somebody who isn’t clued in to the grand design, everybody else on the club runs around, playing defense, attacking, pressing in the midfield and killing themselves, while that No. 10 stands around looking bored, until he gets the ball. When he loses the ball, he doesn’t make much effort to get it back, never mind that the player who loses the ball usually has the best immediate opportunity to regain possession. Grand design. Further, it makes not giving 100% acceptable. “Messi doesn’t track back. What if I dog it a little bit?”

People will say “Yeah, when whoever scores goals like Messi, they can …. ” and there’s the problem. Guardiola went from “Run, you bastards, run,” to “Run, you bastards, except for you.” And that creates problems, because Messi makes a run, loses the ball and the other team runs off, pell-mell, at our frantically backpedaling defense, in a system heretofore predicated on attackers, ALL being defenders and defenders being attackers.

But when he was playing a whole match, as he did in the treble season, his first 10 steps were used to devastating effect in ball recovery. He’d lose the ball and barely before the opponent could get full control, there was a demon nipping at his heels, demanding the ball back. “That’s mine, dammit. Gimme.” We saw it very recently in the Copa final, in which he was dispossessed, and closed on the defender who stole the ball as if he were in hyperspace, disrupting the attack and prying the ball loose.

The question is if the latter player is worth having for part of the time, or the seemingly disinterested until he gets the ball genius all of the time is preferable. Valid question, and one that I don’t really have an answer to. I do know that to my view, based on how much I have watched over the years, during the various coaches, that the 08-09 Barca was one of the most amazing football clubs that I have ever seen, one that was unstoppable. Yes, it had the extraordinary luck of not having the same rash of injuries to key players at terrible times, but people forget that there were many, many injuries that season, that our Champions League lineup was this makeshift, rickety thing that nonetheless got the job done.

For me, I would rather have a rested, fully committed, 100% Messi 80% of the time, than a guy standing around waiting for the ball before he comes to life. The other benefit would be that the club would learn to play without him, against the clubs that we shouldn’t really need him for.

Dependence on a player who can be stopped isn’t good for a club

At the end of this season, Messi had 73 goals in all competitions. The next-closest playe(s) on the squad had 15. In the treble season, Messi had 38 goals, and Eto’o had 34. That’s what you like to see. Henry was third, with 25 goals.

The following season Eto’o was gone, Henry was on paid sabbatical and Messi had 45 goals. Pedro had 22, Ibrahimovic 21 and the club left a big trophy on the table. You could already see the signs of the gap becoming too large, even as a pair of 20-goal scorers helped immensely. Because teams were setting up to stop Messi. There wasn’t really anyone else on the club who could, on their own, hurt them.

The following season again saw a pair of 20+goal scorers, Pedro and David Villa, backing Messi’s gaudy tally of 50 goals. Was the gap too large? The club won the Liga and Champions League, leaving the Copa on the table, at the feet of a team that decided to stop our best player by any means necessary.

But the signs are worrying. Is the lack of the team’s acquiring a scorer Messi’s fault? No. But it is a complexity of his existence that he becomes the player to stop. Full stop. As of right now, one man makes us go. And that is an untenable situation, because that one man also wants the ball a lot. If 3 defenders are tasked with controlling him, in theory that should free up other players. But who? 15 goals from the second-top scorer, in a world in which everyone is devoted to stopping Messi, speaks to an anemic level of finishing that verges on laughable, were I a neutral. But I’m not. So it’s worrisome.

“A-HA, you dumbass, EE has almost the same broad disparity between its top scorer and its No. 2.” And you’d be right. But Benzema and Higuain each have 20+ goals. Which explains a lot. It also frustrates, because you realize, even with all those goals, how just a few plays would have us top of table. But that is still yet another story.

Have we had a perfect storm this season? Absolutely. Who knew that Pedro would lose form, Villa would break his leg and Sanchez would turn out to be exactly the player that he is, a facilitator rather than a goal scorer? So again, seemingly everything rests on the shoulders of a diminutive genius. But when the “genius” light doesn’t come on, we have problems creating and scoring. Only time will tell whether that complexity proves to be fatal. But it is interesting that in Messi’s most productive season, we have been shut out of major silver.

In a Puyol and Xavi-less future, is he a team leader?

There was an interesting debate on Twitter recently, about whether Messi should be captain for Argentina, instead of Mascherano. Some said it should be Messi. Others (like me) pointed to those attributes that Mascherano has that Messi doesn’t, in the same say Puyol has attributes that make him a better captain for FCB than Messi. Is he our best player? Hard to answer. In terms of goals, etc, yes. But contextually it’s hard to answer. In a game that puts emphasis on goals scored, defenders rarely get “best player” consideration. But for a time there, had you asked me who the consistently best player was on Barca irrespective of position, I would have answered Eric Abidal. And yet, he would NEVER be captain.

This is Messi’s team (yes, even though Puyol is captain). So what next? Puyol has one more season at the most and, depending on what happens this summer transfer season, one that might not be as an automatic starter. Xavi has two more, and what then? A Messi episode of lashing out at Tello for doing the wrong thing, and the rumor that he let his teammates have it during the home Clasic, makes you realize two things:

1) He has leadership qualities, in that he demands the best from everyone, all the time. And that includes himself. Those are the beginning of captain qualities.

2) You don’t want your leader yelling at someone for not giving them the ball in the right spot. Puyol gets into Pique’s grille for defensive matters, for not doing all that he can to help the team. Now certainly, by helping Messi that is indeed helping the team. But semantics will dictate to us that “Mark your man, dammit,” is different, as a matter of perception, than “Give me the ball so I can score, dammit!” Both help the team, both win or lose matches. But perception is key, even as we acknowledge that there isn’t a sane person on the planet who wouldn’t rather have the ball at Messi’s feet with a goal on the line, than any other player in the game right now.

But …. there are ways to coach and instruct, and Messi will learn those as his leadership skills blossom. What you don’t want is for his demands, and the way that they are phrased in the heat of battle, to make a player tentative. Tello should learn to make the right decisions with the ball, i.e. when to shoot and when to pass. But when your leader doesn’t always demonstrate those qualities, how fair is the demand of the same from others? Xavi probably would have been the best person to say “Hey, dude, you should have played it to the little guy. The chicks will still love you.” This will be, again, where a strong coach comes in.

The brutality of pressure

Finally, the killer. Messi has been lucky, in that he has always had a grownup around, so to speak. Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Henry, Xavi, Puyol. There will come a time when those players will all be gone, and Messi will be the grownup, as he is with Argentina. What then? Good question. But having grown folks around removes a degree of pressure from a player that allows him to focus on being his best. Xavi, Iniesta or Mascherano can do the press conferences. No worries. Just practice and play.

As a player becomes the grownup, pressure builds. Messi has demonstrated that he can handle immense amounts of pressure. That he hasn’t retired to a desert island when anyone mentions the Argentina NT is proof positive of that. As for the future, we will just have to see.

To wrap this beast up, my fondest hope, because it will also be the best thing for the club, is that Lionel Messi continues to develop, wins a World Cup, continues grabbing trophies, Golden Boots and Ballons d’Or with Barca, and blossoms into the mature, world-beating, versatile, unplayable monster that he not only has the potential to become, but that all signs point to his becoming. Nonetheless, I wanted to ask some questions and inspire some debate.

Thanks for reading.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. 1. If I had to have a problem, this is the one I’d choose to have.
    2. I completely agree that having 3 (or more) 20-goal players is preferable.
    3. It’s a bit of a negative feedback loop. The more players look to Messi to score, the more he feels like he’s the one who’s supposed to score.
    4. If resting him isn’t possible, maybe a better approach would be to move him into a Xavi-like role for some games.

  2. I agree with some of the problems you talk about. But it’s an overall team issue, not just a Messi problem. The rest of the team isn’t scoring less because Messi is scoring more. Messi is scoring more because the rest of the team is scoring less. Also, you can’t say for sure that Messi would score less goals if the other attacks scored more. Theoretically yes, as it would mean the other attackers would demand the ball more. But I think Messi could have gotten just as many goals this season if Pedro was on form and Villa never broke his leg.

  3. OT but talking about Messi. Seems he is really going to be a father with a little baby boy on the way.

    This will mature him in many different ways as it did with Iniesta.

    The 2006 babies of the team are all growing up 🙂

    Wonder when Xavi will settle down?

  4. In my opinion there are two major issues that need to be overcome regarding Messi. The first is tactical: Is he a 9 or a 10? Can he play with a 9? When he plays as a 9 how do you solve the problem of losing penetration and keep the opposing centerbacks honest? I won’t go too much into this, but a lot of this season he was trying to play two or three positions at once. While he often found solutions to the problems this caused, too many times he would drop very deep and the team would be endlessly playing in front of the opposing defense with no way to get behind it or penetrate it.

    The second is a personnel problem. In ’08-’09 Messi was playing alongside Eto’o and Henry, two accomplished players who knew they were important – and were a bit selfish (this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, every good striker needs to be a bit selfish). Now he is mostly playing alongside guys who dreamed of playing with him, and David Villa who has been too reverent to Messi and deferred to him too often.

    The problem here is that too often at the tail end of this season we would see our players watch Messi run with the ball instead of moving to exploit space. Too often players look for Messi when he is marked while another player is wide open. Too often when Messi wasn’t making magic we didn’t have anyone with the cojones to step up and take the match onto their own shoulders because they were used to Messi taking that responsibility.

    Messi himself hasn’t helped this, as there were signs of anger from him on the pitch at different points this year when he didn’t get the ball. I remember one instance Tello took a shot and Messi wasn’t at all happy about not getting the ball – and didn’t try to hide it.

    Pep mentioned that the worked very hard through his 4 years to imprint on Messi that the reason he is able to reach these heights is as much because of the team around him as his own qualities. It’s a lesson Tito should continue to emphasize, but he also needs to be imparting this to the rest of the team.

    1. Calvin,

      You too? The “Tello incident” is/was blown out of proportion. I yelled at Tello many times this season. Why? He had his head down and looking for glory when the best/right play was to center the ball into the box for the player making the run. Most of the times it was a no brainer pass. Having played various team sports I can say that it’s the most frustrating experience when a teammate opts for selfishness instead of the overall good of the team. Messi was that player making THAT run many times this season. I could see him frusterated and I don’t blame him for yelling at Tello. Jordan did it. Great wide receivers do it. Not because their selfish and “demand” the ball, but because they are often the most intelligent player who recognize the “right” play. Messi will grow into a leader and know that it won’t take “yelling” to get his point across. Much like Stevie G grew into the captaincy, age 25, at Liverpool. So could Messi.

    2. For me it isn’t the magnitude. It’s the mere existence of the incident. At the Tribune, we take painstaking steps to avoid even the APPEARANCE of a conflict of interest. Because whether the conflict of interest is real or not, perception can influence reality.

      It’s why I talked about potential ramifications, rather than letting the tree of the incident obscure the forest.

    3. Also it isn’t as much a question of being the smartest person in the room, as much as the smartest person who can deliver a message in the most effective way.

      As noted above, Messi is developing captain qualities. But for me, he’s still a ways off from being fully formed captain material.

    4. Agree with delivering the message in the “right” way. I just think it’s more of a age issue and experience will help shape the more subtle approach. The Stevie G. reference came from a documentary, “A year in my life, Steven Gerard”. It was shown on FSC recently. It was right after Istanbul and followed him the whole year. He spoke of how he had a penchant for wanting to show his displeasure at teammates for errors comitted. Once he was given the armband he had to think twice and maybe “pick the player up” by words of encouragement. I thought it was fascinating insight for a then 25 year old. Messi is only 24. I know how I was at 24. Lots to learn. Hopefully, Tito can help shape the leader in him.

    5. Tello has been very very predictable, every time he has the ball, he just tries to cut leftwards and shoot. Have we ever seen a different movement from him. In that ways, Cuenca is much better.
      This Tello incident, I dont remember which match it was, was one when even I was screaming at him to give the ball to the box, instead he shot. I also thought for a moment, may be Messi shouldnt have expressed his happiness right there, but then on second thoughts, it has to be like that (havent we seen Puyol shouting at others).
      Players like Messi happens once in many decades (Xavi says Messi has immense speed both physically and mentally, Maradona says one thing he understood while coaching Messi was his speed of thought was just like Deigo at his best)and you can always see certain movements he make, on and off the ball, are out of thoughts from a different planet. They seem to know what is the best moment.
      Tello might think twice before doing the same again.

      I am still not sure all your criticisms are apt or fair at this point. We lost the two big tournaments more because of our lack of defensive discipline, rather than for not scoring.
      I have been feeling, from the beginning of 2011, that Xavi doesnt always make use of Messi’s presence, still I am not going to criticise Xavi that he doesnt pass to Messi. Because, 98 -99% we are still working good.

      No need to creat a stupid idea and grow it into a big problem. I really dont think Messi is or will be a Barca problem. I have seen so many moments when Messi has tracked back and fought for the balls he lost. I have also seen so many moments, when other players have not passed the ball to him or somebody else in the attack, instead just slowing down our rhythm and just keeping the ball (few games in the first half of the season we suffered and lost points because of this, which was not Messi’s fault). Count also the no. of balls that hit the post and the large no. of possible assists Messi gave. couple of such very decisive ones were against Chelsea.

      For me, Messi and Busquets especially have only been vastly improving. Just watch the CL finals of 2009 and 2011 and please try to repeat if you really meant Barca of 08-09 was the best. We were at least 60% better in the 2011 finals.

      We have only hugely improved ever since the 09 CL season. This season, it was just 3 games in 8 days which worked against us. We must not forget that this was a depleted Barca too. Villa, Pedro, Pique and above all Abidal affected us. Esepcially, Abidal, in that 3 games the major goals came through Abi’s gates, imagine if he was there.

      There are good points in your article, but I really dont see the reason to make this article right now. A player scores and assists the maximum and puts in his best for a team, without any rest and this is how we react. I am not saying messi is out of criticism. But not right now, for sure. It is quite premature, forseeing some future problems which is not even in the anvil of existence, right now.
      This article, I hope is not seen by Messi or any other Barca players. I am afraid it will impart a very negative idea in our team.

    6. Also, when you have a player like Messi or Maradona, it is normal for a coach to groom the whole team around that player.

      I watched the whole WC in ’86 as a child and adored Maradona. But now I hate when people say Maradona single handedly lead Argentina to the cup. The whole team played to the strengths of Maradona thats it. A certain Passeralla, who was not ready to acknowledge the superiority of Deigo, rested on the bench.

    7. Messiah10,

      Sorry to respond so late (PS – your username gives away where you stand on Messi :P).

      Anyways I think you make a good point in that this one incident is overplayed. I chose it because I couldn’t think of another specific incident, but despite my poor memory on specific events I noticed a worrying trend at the tail end of this season.

      In the beginning of Pep’s reign Messi was playing happy, unfettered, and with nothing on his mind but joy for the game. He always plays best when he looks like he is having fun on the pitch. Starting around the time when we played a billion Clasicos in a row a new side of Messi started to show. He would sometimes look strained, like he wasn’t enjoying himself on the pitch, and he even had short and rare bouts of petulance.

      During the second half of this season we saw the happy Messi less and the grumpy/serious/whatever Messi more often. I think this has a lot to do with injuries and that Messi felt he had to put the entire team on his shoulders – thus putting himself under pressure, and he just doesn’t play as well when he does this – see his performances for Argentina where he feels he has to do everything.

      My main concern is that Messi doesn’t need to be feeling that he has to carry the team on his shoulders – when he feels this way he doesn’t play as well and it shows. To accomplish this it will take both keeping Messi grounded and the rest of the team stepping up and taking that responsibility so Messi doesn’t have to.

  5. I think most will agree with me that we all liked Messi of 2008-09 more than Messi of 2011-12, regardless the personal success. Simply. because we care more about the club rather than for a player, any player, ever.
    Messi is the best thing that happened to this club in the recent history. Though the initial spark was Ronnie and he made everything running again for us.
    I want a number 9 for us, simple as that, i miss a 9 for us in front of a goal. A sort of Falcao type, not necessarily him, someone who can make the tap ins, who can score headers, who can do something unpredictable. We has this in that season of 1008-09, variety of goals, and defenders just simply standing and now knowing from who to watch out. Our offensive play was very predicable this season. Yes, we scored a huge amount of goals, most of them in the same manner and only due to Messi’s genius.
    Let’s just see what will Tito do with him and the team in general and of course what we bring during the summer, maybe they have a surprise or two for us, who knows.
    AND, Messi is not Jordan, and never will be. In terms of leadership.

    1. I’ve liked Messi and Busi from 2011/2012 more then their versions from 2008/2009 and this has nothing to do with me supporting them more then the least Busi is not being blamed for Xavi’s poor form and Iniesta not living up to the level that we expected from him after last season.

    2. Not sure what you mean about Xavi’s poor form . . . He has been outstanding as always.

  6. I know I witnessed Messi “taking rests” or “breathers”, but I don’t think it’s as large a problem it’s being made to be. It wasn’t every game. In the games I saw it, it didn’t happen the entire game. When Messi’s relied on to provide the only goals we were going to score, then he needs to be able to do what he does. Simple as that. I would rather have him rest on tracking back a few times a game and have that bust he needs to equalize in the 80th minute then not. Just my humble opinion though. I want Neymar now! He’ll pour in the goals with Messi and Alexis. Revert to the 08/09 formation and those 3 would be deadly. When Neymar’s adjusting to Liga, Villa, Afellay, & Pedro could fill in.

    1. I agree that it’s not necessarily a bad thing that Messi is taking breathers on the field.

      My concern is that the only reason he needs to take these breathers is because the team relies on him to play 1.5-2 positions EVERY match of the year with no rest.

  7. A thought provoking piece, Kevin. And this question you raised is interesting:

    But is it a coincidence that Messi’s lowest scoring tally of the past 4 years has also seen the most success?

    My answer – we didn’t win because we had defensive problems. Last season we saw a 3-man backline, Alves off-form, Abidal’s injury, Puyol aging/injuries, Pique losing concentration/injuries.

    Some interesting statistical evidence:

    -FCB Liga 2011-2012: Goal scored/conceded ratio = 3.93. Meaning – for every goal conceded, the team scored 3.93 goals.

    -RM comparable stats: Goal scored/conceded ratio = 3.78. Meaning for every goal conceded, they scored 3.78 goals.

    Obviously in this sport, if a team scores one more goal than its opponent, then that team wins. Goal difference doesn’t matter.

    If you look at those ratios, RM scored 3.78 goals for every goal they conceded. That is 0.15 goal scored less than Barca. And they won the league.

    Time series analysis:

    The treble year, the goal scored/conceded ratio was 3, which meant for every goal conceded we scored three. A 0.93 goal scored less than last season. We had a diverse group of goal scorers that season, but we scored less and won the league.

    Again, these stats suggest that the problem is not about who were in front of opponents’ net, but who were protecting ours.

    Notes: I checked last season’s league results, we had two 0-0 results (Sevilla and Villareal) and a 1-0 loss to Getafe. It’s too late at night and my brain is dead, so I’m not sure what to make of these three results yet.

    CL Competition: Since the competition is determined via play-offs, no point in calculating the tournament’s aggregate goal scored/conceded ratios.

    But the two times we were eliminated: The aggregate scores were 2-3. Meaning we scored two goals and conceded three. Again pointing to problems in defense, not offense.

    -Extra data:

    Liga 2010-2011: Goal scored/conceded ratio = 4.52. Same translation – for every goal conceded, the team scored 4.52 goals.
    Liga 2009-2010: Goal scored/conceded = 4.08.

    I’m just offering an alternative view to anyone who thinks that we didn’t win major trophies partially because we were depending too much on Messi.

    Sorry for all these calculations 😀
    (Data from soccernet)

    1. Agree with the analysis – the trophy losses were down to the defense and would only add that for me positional deficiencies in Mascherano made the difference in big games. In the end it came down to two or three small incidents.

  8. As much as we have suffered from Messidependency this season, we should also not forget the amount of times we hit the bar. Had those goals gone in, we wouldn’t even been talking about this but, still be talking our treble winning season. Since they didn’t go in we might as well discuss the issue.
    I too have noticed that Messi is slowly becoming what i’d call a ‘diva’. His quiet and shy attitude makes it hard to notice but when things don’t go his way, he actually has a temper. I think he expects his team mates to be as good as he his and when they fail to make a ‘simple’ pass, he gets frazzled. He knows he’s the best player in the world and that slowly is becoming a hinderance coz now he feels he has to do everything. In all the games we lost this yr, when the team ran out of ideas, his team mates first instinct was to look for him. When they did find him, he had no idea as well and he’d either for a run or give it back to Xavi. I don,t think the problem with Messi is not bad just yet but, has a potential of going out of hand of he puts too much influence in the team.
    The main problem here is why the team played so poorly, or failed to convert their chances. Cesc, Xavi, VV, Pique, well everyone bar Messi and Masch had a poor season. I think Messi would have scored as many goals, maybe even more had we had luck and not hit the bar or post so many times and so would everyone else for that matter. I don’t think he’s captain material though. There’s something about him lacking in that department but, he could gain it with maturity.

    1. “Cesc, Xavi, VV, Pique, well everyone bar Messi and Masch had a poor season.”

      Couldn’t disagree more.

  9. How do you solve a problem like Messi-ah?

    Don’t personally think there is a problem. I would be scared if he showed all the requisite leadership skills at the young age of 24. As the captaincy looms in the horizon, he will by then have matured and earn the armband or will show no interest in leading and both choices are fine, because the captaincy is not for everyone. Pique will make just as fine a captain in time.
    As for you’re other concerns they seem premature, he has handled being the sole attacker due to the host of injuries better than anyone else could and give him a striker and wingers who are on form next season and his goal tally will be closer to 45 than 75. When you have the very best, you always tailor new arrivals to be compatible with the best, because anything else is a downgrade. Expecting Villa and Eto not to be hampered when playing with with Messi, ignores the problem of scarcity.
    Does he change the way the team plays? does he walk around at times? can it be defended? Questions you brought up which can be answered simply by looking at his goal tally. He delivered 73 goals for us in all competitions.The assists are also relevant. Were there games where he walked, gave away possession, produced no final product, ending with us walking off the field, heads down. We all collectively sighed after those games, but most of us noted the bus being parked, the lack of space, the lack of strikers, the injuries, the Cesc problem, the defending problem, the formation problem, maybe some team had figured us out, or maybe it was just Messi being mortal. Don’t get me wrong some of them probably were down to him but the games this season are not ideal to draw a sample size from. Next season will probably alleviate you’re concerns if some luck comes our way in terms or form and injuries.
    Great article kevinx, juxtaposes nicely with nzm’s. Also while I disagree with the issues you laid out it’s good to see a change from the usual prose/praise filled messi blurb. This article, Nzm’s brilliant statistical compilation, silly season is shaping up quite well so far.

    On another note cannot wait for friday,
    Lets go Greece, Russia, Federer, Ferrer

  10. Kids need to cool the talk on Messi; he’s no Joe Cole. C’mon, it is ridiculous to complain about anything to do with Messi when there are people like Crynaldo, JT, and Ibra in the world. Add Robinho, Neymar, Tevez, Balotelli, Ribery, Robben, and Nasri to the list. *And these guys aren’t even as talented!

    Moving Messi to a Xavi role would not help. Often, Xavi is the player with the greatest distance covered in a match.

    I don’t see a problem with building the team around Messi. Seriously, if we could buy Crynaldo, who in the world would want him on the same team? Not me.

    On another note, I’m predicting a strong Euro for Afellay and us selling him before the start of the season. It’s “written in the stars”.

  11. news coming out claims that Manuel Preciado has died of a heart attack. I’m sad about this.

    1. Arrggh. Noooo! I thought it was one of those online jokes at first.

      Oh dear Lord. I love Preciado. He was the only one with the balls to stand up to Mou. And he looks like a grandfather Einstein to me.

      Oh, I’m very very sad too.

    2. Heart-breaking news.

      Just before he was about to be introduced as Villarreal’s new coach.

      Preciado was one of the true characters of La Liga. He was a good friend of Pep’s, too.

      His gravelly voice giving interviews on TV was always such a pleasure to hear and he had a marvellous wit and sense of gentleman around him – even when he was being scathingly insulting about people. 🙂

      I’ll never forget the furore he caused with an answer that he gave to a question. When asked what he thought could ever stop Messi, he blurted out, “a gun?”, and then gave this little embarrassed chuckle as he realised the gaffe that he’s made. But he was so adorable that his reply wasn’t taken seriously by most – just those who wished to make a meal of it.

      His recent life was filled with such sadness too. His wife died from cancer about 10 years ago, his son was killed in a car crash a few years later and his father died last year after being run over.

      I’m going to miss Manolo. RIP.

    3. The news really made me shed some tears.

      He was such a charismatic, likeable character with probably some of the best comments ever spoken by a coach. He lived for football, maybe a bit like ‘el loco’ Bielsa.

      And reading what already happened to other members of the Preciado family… how can fate strike so hard? It’s almost unreal, incredibly sad.

      May they all find their peace and harmony in the afterlife.

    4. RIP. I was really happy for him to be taking over the Yellow Sub. If anyone could get them back to Liga he could! He won promotion 5 times! Stellar coach and stellar human being. I wish his family much lI’ve through this tough time. Sad day.

    5. All the Barca guys on FB have written statuses about it; the respect they have for him is pretty strong. I was really hoping to see him do well with a deflated Villarreal, such a shame he passed away so early. RIP

    6. I just heard the news. Absolutely gutted. I feel like I have lost a friend. He was such a decent, human character, and he will be sadly missed.


  12. Great article, again reinforces the fact even too much of a good thing can be bad.

    but here’s where i disagree. I believe that even with a fit Villa and Pedro, Messi would have racked up these incredible numbers this season. well, maybe not 73, but definitely over 60. It was inevitable, the guy is peaking and not just any guy, someone who might just be the best player ever. So yeah, there you go..
    Lets not blame messi for scoring way too many goals, he also gave a whole lot of assists which is ignored in this article.

  13. Brilliant article, Kevin. You open up a lot of discussion about whichever path Messi chooses to go down in the next few seasons.

    It’s going to be a fascinating progression to watch, and I’d rather that it all continues to be a success, rather than the trainwreck which it also has the potential to become.

    A lot is going to depend on Messi’s mental state, and I would hope that the club recognises that they need to keep the communication going with Messi and keep him briefed on all the changes that are made both in terms of tactics on the pitch and with personnel changes. As well, they need to be providing him with some psychological help to keep him in the right head space.

    I get the feeling that Messi’s mental status can be triggered quite easily, in that he can quickly go from being a 10, in the way that he’s feeling, all the way to 0 in a short space of time. Mentally, he needs to be kept in the 6-8 zone so that he is better prepared for everything that comes his way. A player who hovers around 6-8 in every game is better than one who is a 10 in one game and then a 2 in the next. Being a 9-10 in every game is too hard to maintain for any length of time.

    I also believe that if Messi had had healthier players around him last year, the Messidependencia wouldn’t have been an issue.

    It wasn’t that he was selfish with his 73 goals because his high assist tally (28 which could have been 38 under legal assist definitions) attributes to the fact that he fed the ball to so many better-positioned players for them to score. But then there were also so many attempted assists that he gave (which were pretty much guaranteed goals) to Villa, Cesc and Pedro which they horribly botched. That had to annoy him – all that work that he did for them to miss easy shots!

    I’m not sure that Messi is leader/captain, and would prefer that he wasn’t, so that he could concentrate on his game. Maybe when he’s 30. Masch is a better leader for Argentina, and when Xavi, VV, Iniesta and Puyol have retired, I think that Cesc (over Pique) is a better leader for Barca, if he’s still at the club when that time comes. Busquets could also be developed for a leadership role.

    Lots of changes happening for Messi – baby on the way, change in coach, possibly big changes on the pitch.

    Above all, he needs to feel valued as a person and player. That’s no more than most people would expect.

    Thanks for providing the semantics and humanity, to the person and player that is Messi, as a complement to my earlier statistical analysis! 🙂

  14. Terrible news about Preciado. 2 hours after hearing the news, I am still frozen. Football needed more characters like him. How sad it is to go on wiki and see Manuel Preciado was…

    So much heartbreak he saw in one life, from his wife dying of cance to his dad getting ran over and now this. Just goes football isnt important really, its just a game. This also shows how cruel life can be, from planning to be presented as Villareal manager one day and being gone the next. Sighhh, how Ill miss that moustache. Brave soul he was, after all that has gone on in his personal life and after his wife died, Preciado said ” I could have shot myself or I couldve carried on”. My best wishes to his family and friends and also Villareal. (Imagine how they must feel).

    RIP Manuel ‘Manolo’ Preciado Rebolledo.

    1. RIP indeed. His press conference when he left Sporting was the most emotional I’ve seen. He’ll be missed immensely in Gijon, even though he got fired he was loved.

  15. Just locked into Twitter to find some silly rumours about transfers or something like that and found out about Preciado. It made me really sad. He had to endure so much tragedies in his private life and then the sacking and just when it seemed that fortuna was smilling on him again, he dies. Life can be beyound cruel sometimes

  16. Don’t forget that if others had capitalized on some clear chances,sitters even (many of them provided by Messi), we would be talking about some pretty great stats from several players rather than worrying about our dependence on Messi. And if Villa hadn’t been half crocked/out for half the season…

  17. By way of a bit of background, this piece has been in the works for some time, even before the outcome of Liga and Champions League for us was known. It was something that I started thinking about as I noticed how the season was progressing. I then had to make some edits to reflect current events.

    So, irrespective of how the season turned out, this post was going to happen. My thoughts are weird (like most folks’) in that they are event INdependent. Win or lose, Messi is a very, very interesting phenomenon — and make no mistake, he is most definitely a phenomenon, a once-in-a-lifetime event that comes along that changes everything.

    Frankly, I still can’t believe how lucky we are to have him in our colors.

  18. OT: its been 20 years since we won that historic league title in 1992 (I wasnt born then) when we hadnt lead the table all season untill the final day when we beat Bilbao and Real Madrid lost to Tenerife unable to hang on to a 2 goal lead. Guardiola and Eusebio were both in that team along with Stoichkov and Laudrup.

    Barca finished with 55 points
    Real Madrid with 54
    Athletico Madrid with 53

    All three were in the run in for the title. Never ever would be that competitive now. I mean 55 points for the winner compared to 100 of this year was incredibly competitive.

    1. They used a different point system back then.

      With the nowadays usual 3-point-system we would have finished with 78 points in 91/92.

  19. On a completely unrelated note, this season is saying some stuff to us, trying to teach us some lessons about life and how it relates to football. I can’t recall the last season in which so much has happened to remind us that this is all just a game. Abidal, Muamba, Morosini, Preciado. It’s been a year of tears, for the right/wrong reasons. Ouch.

    1. I’m convinced this is the reason why Pep took a break.

      Remember when Estiarte (I think) said that Pep cried twice?

      Once in front of the whole world after winning the sixplete and the second time was when he found out about Abidal. It took a lot out of him to think about Abi and how he was fighting for his life and still playing for us. At the same time, while he was thinking about life and death – there were some stupid, shallow people out there who were only intent on making the beautiful game ugly.

      When the games became violent and petulant and Mou started saying all sorts of silly things and RM camp made up stories to dirty and sullen our players and our team – Pep had it. Especially since he has spent so little time with his family, having been all-consumed by his coaching work and all the traveling it entailed.

      So – he is taking a break. I am sure that it is only a break. For how long, we don’t know. But I think he was determined to live life, enjoy the fruits of his labor, see his family daily and share the world with them. And he would think his decision even more correct now after the Great Moustache’s death (I still cannot believe this. I am in denial).

      Hence, he’s coming to New York. Thankfully, I will have a very good chance of bumping into him.

      I have a really, really good theory re Messi. I’ve thought and thought about this for a very long time now, which theory was strengthened when I could see that Pep wouldn’t bench/sub off Messi if Messi wanted to play.

      But I have errands now so….will write it down tonight

  20. Manual Preciado – RIP

  21. Well lets not forget that at age 20 the club sold his best friend , gave him his number and the keys to the team. They also sold Eto’o a year later which surprised him by all accounts. So in the span of two years he had first hand example of what it takes to remain at this club long term. To his credit he has accepted the pressure and managed to thrive on it but there is no denying he had to grow up very quickly and early.

    Yet we should still be careful with our expectations. That he exceeded them so far, doesn’t mean we should keep moving the barometer further.I certainly would have snapped by now if when I scored 3 goals people were wondering why I didn’t sprint much during the game. The majority of players wilt under less pressure so its astounding that he keeps himself going with all the expectations from both club and country.

    In the end the lack of trophies with Argentina are probably what spur him on. If he had won the world cup in 2010 he might still be the best because he is a perfectionist but I believe his goal tally would have remained constant as opposed to sky rocketing over the last 2 years.You could say the day he stops getting angry over defeats or minor events in a match is the day he becomes satisfied with his success and stops pushing himself and his team mates. I prefer a million times a grumpy Puyol or Messi than two apathetic versions. They wouldn’t be themselves if that happened.

  22. Excellent analysis Kxevin. I agree with your assessment. Thanks for writing the piece.
    The issues you wrote actually surfaced during the two most critical games of the year – the Classico at Camp Nou and the CL semifinal. Messi was too tired mentally and physically from the cumulative effects of the long season and the summer playing for his NT to be magical. I love Pep as much as anyone but he wasn’t perfect. His single biggest mistake was not resting Messi enough through the season. I’m pretty sure it was to placate Messi that he didn’t but that’s the coach’s job. Jordan had enough respect for PJ that PJ was able to be a real coach and not just a facilitator to MJ’s whims.

    Of course, credit is due to the little one through his 73 goals that we were even in a position to have ended the season with six trophies despite having a front line that consisted of Messi, two B-teamers and two new transfers (both of whom were not fit). Plus losing half the first choice back line for most of the season. Incredible.

    1. The issues you wrote actually surfaced during the two most critical games of the year – the Classico at Camp Nou and the CL semifinal. Messi was too tired mentally and physically from the cumulative effects of the long season and the summer playing for his NT to be magical. I love Pep as much as anyone but he wasn’t perfect. His single biggest mistake was not resting Messi enough through the season.

      I was saying this all season long. Pep’s handling of Messi was poor in this aspect. Yes, Pep moved Messi to false 9. But still, Pep still had to have a foresight. It is no rocket science that Messi was going to burn out when the crunch time comes.

    2. I heard rumours of Messi having some kind of GI bug around that fateful week..?

  23. I’m not sure how much I follow this reasoning. Messi provided so many great passes to the rest of the team; it isn’t his fault that they didn’t finish them. Now, there may be some sort of psychological block on all our other players to be rubbish in shooting because they feel that Messi should be taking the shots, but how would we fix that? If we get a selfish player, then we’ll bemoan that he isn’t adapting to the team’s tiki taka. I think the return of in-form Pedro and a healthy Villa will be enough. And in any case, winning 4 trophies and being close to a remuntada in the league and CL seems like a pretty successful year. Sure, we know that with the quality of our players we could win everything every year, but luck also plays such a huge part. One year you get an amazing Yaya goal and Pinto saving a crucial PK, other years you get Pedro and Bojan goals annulled and Abidal fighting cancer.

  24. Way off-topic:

    According to the club, the typeface on the new kits is inspired by Gaudi’s work. This link via @barcastuff tells us about the design

    Knowing the style narrative of these new jerseys makes me like them even more! In a way, these are not just some manufactured shirts; they have a history, a design-process displaying on those shirts.

    Today I learn that in Catalunya,local arts and language are deeply embedded in the notion of country. So maybe, these new shirts tell us something about the club 🙂

  25. Sighhhh …. first racist incident at the Euros and the tournament hasn’t even started yet. Holland players were subjected to monkey chants at today’s practice. UEFA says they weren’t racist. Van Bommel calls bollocks on that, says monkey chants were clearly audible.

    Makes you wonder what England and France will face.

    1. Fifa & Uefa don’t get it. They want to spread the game globally by awarding these tourney’s to different locals so they can make as much $ as possible. Russia will be just as bad. Qatar getting the World Cup is a joke. Human rights violations and laws against homosexuality are just a couple of points. The fact that it will be 120 degrees and it may need to be moved to winter time is laughable. At first, I thought the racism talked about in Poland and Ukraine was over blown and that most countries have racists. However, if this is already happening at training. . .??? WTF? I saw the video of ultra’s(ignorant, skinhead, neanderthal, morons) attacking Asian fans at a game a couple of weeks ago in one of the host countries. Shocked doesn’t begin to describe my feelings. I was sick to my stomach. Maybe the U.S. has come farther then I thought with race relations. I couldn’t imagine something like that happening in the States. Appalled.

    2. @Messiah

      But at least in Qatar you won’t be expecting to deal with racism. Whatever goes on in their politics, let it be. As long as the players won’t be affected and us at home, then it’s fine to me.

      But countries like Ukraine, Poland, Russia offers us with this problem and let’s not forget, they themselves have issues within their country as well. So let’s not just isolate Qatar on that one.

    3. @barca96

      I can’t say with 100% conviction, but I’m almost certain Ukraine, Poland, & Russia don’t have laws criminalizing homosexuality. They may have at one point. Even some states in the U.S. had laws banning sodomy. My point is that Qatar still does. They enforce it! I don’t think many fans will be willing to risk their lives to visit Qatar during the WC unless this prehistoric attitude changes. Do you think their aren’t thousands of gay & lesbian fans of each country represented in a World Cup? Why would Fifa knowingly award the WC to a country that has these discriminatory laws?

    4. So your saying that your fine with human rights violations as long as the country can host a great WC and you are entertained? I guess you and I have different convictions. UEFA & FIFA ignoring political ideology at the expense of hundreds of thousands of people in host countries and fans of participating countries is not “ok” with me. It’s beyond reprehensible.

    5. Yeah Qatar hasn’t got the greatest record when it comes to human rights but hey they have a LOT of money…

    6. Why does it look like UEFA is siding with the racist folks? It’s like they are trying their best to turn a deaf eye on this matter.

    7. The way UEFA has handled this situation makes me think they’d deny any racist chants were happening. Pathetic.

    8. Several hundred people targeted players such as Nigel de Jong and Gregory van der Wiel when 25,000 spectators attended the Dutch practice session at the Stadion Miejski, the home of Wisla Krakow. […] Instead, the official line is that a small part of the crowd was protesting about the fact that Krakow had not been made one of the host cities. […] Van Bommel, however, responded angrily when it was put to him not everyone had heard monkey noises. “You need to open your ears,” he said. “If you did hear it, and don’t want to hear it, that is even worse.”

      Sick to my stomach. Uefa really is going to try to sweep this under the rug, aren’t they? England is in Krakow as well, with open training scheduled for tomorrow.

  26. Kxevin, I’ve been asking you this question for months now but you never answered it. I’m going to try once again since you brought Jordan up.

    – How did the Zen master, coach Phil Jackson handle Jordan? In terms of resting and taking care of Jordan’s health.
    – Did PJ rest Jordan whenever they had a big lead?
    – Did PJ let Jordan decide when he wants to rest like how Pep does with Messi?
    – Did Jordan want to go on personal glory (racking up points) instead of resting whenever possible in order to be fully charged come crunch time?

    ps. I still haven’t had time to read through your post, just some light scanning so forgive me if you mentioned this already.

    1. –Frequent breaks, limited playing time when necessary.

      –Yes, he did. Complicating matters is that in football a sub is permanent.

      —No. Never. You never let players decide when they are going to play and rest. Never.

      –Jackson did have to rein Jordan in, but this was lrss of an issue once Jordan got a tasye of the big prize.

  27. Didier Drogba’s decision to leave Chelsea has resulted in the club releasing 4 medical staff, 2 stretcher bearers and a drama teacher.

  28. funny comments about xavi’s Mouth-rinho wont go down to history at I can’t stop laughing.

  29. from a EE fan to a bayern fan at

    Look who’s talking, a Bayern fan lol; I thought you guys have
    disappeared off the face of the earth. It’s good to have you
    though; germs are partially useful. Now, let’s get down to
    business, shall we?

    The last time Bayern won the CL was back, waaayyy back in 2001
    (your first since 1976) whereas Madrid lifted the big-eared trophy
    in 1998, 2000 and 2002 (more recent than you). Who’s the most
    successful now?
    And what’s the point of reaching the final and then bending
    over? I’d rather crash out from the last 16 then get dismantled
    one inch shy of glory.
    Winning that’s what matters and nothing else.

  30. It’s finally here, Euro 2012!!!

    My pick for the final: Netherlands vs. France!

    How about you, BFB? Excited or meh?

    1. Well, France has a formidable squad, but I’ll stick with Oranje.

      My bold (incorrect, maybe) predictions:

      Germany and Spain will not make it past the quarter-finals.
      Pepe will get a red card 😉
      Ballotelli will behave
      A game with Italy will result in a penalty shootout
      England will advance past the group stage. Their fans and mostly media will go crazy.

    2. Really looking forward to it! 4 years ago I was so pessimistic, as usual for a Spain fan, but they wowed me with the uber Xaviniesta+Senna midfield. They’ve changed quite a bit since then, and are not exactly a surprise force anymore, but I can’t wait to see how they do this time.

      I don’t really know how the brackets work out, but if it’s possible I’ll go for the boring and say a Spain-Germany final.

    3. According to espnfc (formerly known as soccernet),

      For quarter games:
      1. Winner of A vs. Runner-up of B
      2. Winner of B vs. Runner-up of A

      3. Winner of C vs. Runner-up of D
      4. Winner of D vs. Runner-up of C

      I Winner1 vs. Winner2

      II Winner3 vs. Winner4


      WinnerI vs. WinnerII

      Since Germany is in B and Spain is in C, it’s possible for a Germany v. Spain final.

    4. Dang it! I got the semis mixed up.

      The semis should be:

      I. Winner1 vs. winner3
      II. Winner2 vs. winner4

      Germany v. Spain final is still possible.

  31. Another good documentary on Barça by TV3, the Catalan public TV. In this one, called “The circle of 4”, the four Barça captains tell us their reaction to the news of Pep leaving the club and their best memories of these four years (accompanied by the relevant images).

    As is to be expected, it’s in Catalan (although Iniesta speaks in spanish). Sorry I cant’t translate it for the time being. Anyway, their body language is quite telling. See/download it here:

    1. Quality video. Thanks for sharing! Hopefully someone will English sub it. Feel bittersweet watching the part where Torres scored and the immediate reactions that followed.

      Ini looks so tanned (by his standard!) and Puyi has nice eyes 😀

    2. Yes – it’s a good one. We watched it last night. Good for the unseen footage and the images in the dressing room.

    1. Ye gods, that’s hilarious. Thank you for that. The running Ribery gag is hysterical. Dirty Tackle is one of the best.

  32. Dont know how reliable these rumours are but lets start with the bad news.

    According to Dutch media we are preparing a bid for Christian Eriksen for 20 million although Ajax want 25 million, heres thbad part, and in that bid we are going to include Cristian Tello although it is not clear whether that is with or without a buy back clause.

    Christan Eriksen is a superb player, he really is but isnt he an attcking midfielder and last time I checked we are loaded in that position with th elikes of Iniesta, Fabregas and El Maestro. Heck even Thiago can play there. But that isnt why I am totally against this move. I cant understand why they would include Tello permanently, I mean on loan is fair enough, the lad has to polish up his game and become less predictable and there isnt a better place to do that than at Ajax ecause of the similar phillosophies but only for a short while. However now that Cuenca is going to be injured we need someone who can be relied on in a similar position with slightly different skill sets like Tello.

    Another rumour which has infuriated me is Afellay to Spartak Moskow according to Russian media and sport. Ive already discussed many times why I believe that Afellay musnt be sold and why he is going to be an integral part of our front line with his pace and passing ability. They want him for 8 million which I would never accept.

    Good news is that Alba is going to sign untill 2017 which he agreed to do in January according to Sport. However the deal which is almost done wont be announced untill after Tito’s official presentation

    1. This is Silly Season, remember? Believe nothing!

      (And if Jordi Alba does sign for us, I would expect him to have a 5-year contract, that’s pretty standard.)

  33. Those are two terribleyellow cards for the Greek defender. Spanish refs truly are horrendous.

    1. You’d think UEFA would have noticed how bad they were this season and not invited any…

  34. Crazy, suspenseful, tense opening Euro 12 game! Spanish ref made horrendous decisions to send of Greek defender. Handball to me was a good no call. Can’t believe keeper saved penalty! Fantastic game!

  35. Canadians: I just spent $19.99 for the Euros package on TSN2. If you are like me & don’t have cable, it’s a pretty decent option. You can watch all the games live and watch replays of any you missed. There is also a cheaper package just for the playoff games. It seems worth it just so i don’t have the hassle of searching for streams all the time.

    1. For those that don’t want to spend that money, ESPN is streaming the games on their website. It’s still a stream, but it’s a good one and you don’t have to go through any intermediate websites.

  36. If you ever have any question about how good Messi is, and how he does what needs to be done exactly as it should be, or can be given constraints, limitations, responsibilities, etc. on the pitch. Find 10 friends,, put a ball at your feet, and try to accomplish/achieve 1/ one billionth of the absolute Genius of Messi. If you know/play the game, with all his “faults” and implications, you can’t help but at some point, stop running, trying,and in sheer exasperation, bend down, take a deep breath and say, “really? How the %#^€”. He is as excellent, as human excellence gets. Watch, enjoy.

  37. I guess if Messi is allowed to coast and recharge on the pitch so he can be more effective, then surely we should be allowed to shift the focus of our attack away from Messi sometimes so our attack can be more mutual and less predictable and ultimately more effective. But again there is that argument that Messi is just that friggen good that his team mates are more than happy to keep giving him the ball so that he can create that magic.

  38. Just watched our AC Milan CL second leg semi match again. And cant help adding more to all what I commented on your article Kevin.
    There is a moment, when Messi receives a ball just outside the box and then lay it on a platter to Thiago to score (I do not know how many n0.9’s, the kind of forwards you say are being sidelined owing to Messi dominance, would have decided to pass that ball, instead of turning around and shooting it), which he shot out. We have seen umpteen such moments actually. Most importantly in the match against Chelsea.

    Whenever I get free time, I try to watch old Barca games and each and every time I only get more and more appreciative of Messi. His assists and possible assists are even more beautiful than his goals. I cannot digest, hence, your accusation of him being selfish etc.

  39. Hi mods,

    It’s not really barca-related but could we have a match-thread for this weekend’s games? There’s Argentina-Brazil, Spain-Italy, Ireland-Croatia, Netherlands-Denmark, Germany-Portugal, France-England(Monday). I’m sure some of us will probably pop in to comment, esp. for Spain and Argentina games.

    Since this Messi post can generate a lot of interesting debates, it’s probably better not to dilute it with more OT comments. Just a request 😀

  40. stupid can’t even spell Germany Manage Loew’s name correct spelling it “Low”

    1. That’s the correct spelling. His name is Joachim Löw, which is pronounced as ‘loew’ in English.

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