So. Personal manita for Messi. What is there to say, really, about this match from the best player extant? Everyone has soiled themselves, had orgasms and exhausted all superlatives in verbal, cyber and print chroniclings of his remarkable feat. 5 goals in a Champions League match. I followed it on Twitter, then went home to watch, and formed my own impressions. I’ll start by saying this isn’t a match review. So no ratings or anything of the kind, just a few observations and questions.
–I’m going to be a churl here and have the temerity to suggest that the headline for a justly-analyzed viewing of this match would be “Barca destroy willing opponent.” Bayer didn’t have a chance in hell in this leg. They knew it, and the played like it. “Pressure? Why, they’re just going to pass it around us, and no way in hell are we going to overcome a 3 AWAY goal deficit. Sure, that’s going to happen. Why kill ourselves?” So they didn’t. And we cruised in third gear, which was more than sufficient to kill them.
Another hard truth is that Bayer didn’t have the quality to overturn that deficit, even had they had the effort and willingness to do so. This was very different than the Arsenal/Milan match, where Arsenal had the quality and the wherewithal to overturn a 4-goal deficit. The circumstances were also very different, in that Milan’s were home goals, rather than away goals. But Bayer would have had to win 3-1 just to force extra time. 3-0 to advance, etc, etc. Either way you look at it, the possibilities were absurd to contemplate. Miracles are one thing, going into the house of the best club in the world with a 3 away goal deficit and hoping to overturn it is beyond miraculous. Does this affect how athletes approach a match? Good question. Watching Bayer play Bayern Munich on the weekend was a very fascinating comparison in belief vs resignation.
–I wouldn’t dream of rating Lionel Messi for this match. He has become like certain performers, who are critic-proof. “It doesn’t matter what that jackass thought of my beloved band. I thought they were magical.” I got a lot of that as a music critic, and player ratings aren’t a whole lot different. But I did note some things, gleaned from the first 20 minutes of so of the Bayer match, in the voice of someone who doesn’t really know The Truth of what they were watching:
Why is that No. 10 guy not trying? He’s just walking around or standing there. He ran toward those other guys, lost the ball then took his sweet time getting back up. Now he’s standing there again. Boy, that pale guy sure looks like their best player. Is he?” Rio Ferdinand Tweeted, early in the Bayer match, “Messi doesn’t look interested tonight….!!”
Yes, this was obviously mistaken. And the person who didn’t know The Truth would, later in the match say, “Boy, that No. 10 guy is something, isn’t he?” And what makes Messi critic-proof is goals. It becomes impossible to rate him over and for a complete match, because of those goals. He scored 5 of them, so his rating should be an 11. Which all depends. Interesting.
–Here’s another pain in the ass question: When Ibrahimovic sauntered around, stood in place and watched the match until the ball came to him, cules called him lazy. When Messi does it, he is considered masterful at conserving his energy, a genius at reading the match, etc. Leaving aside the personality differences and dedication to the cause, which are well-documented, what’s the difference? Yes, that’s a legitimate question. I got some interesting answers on Twitter. They should be even better here, given the quality of discourse. (This is, of course, leaving out the obvious personality differences, and ultimate dedication to the club and cause.)
–Nobody should ever scoff at anyone giving or not giving Messi credit for being a great player, because it doesn’t matter. So what if some say that he isn’t going to be the greatest ever until he wins a World Cup. Why does it matter? People will always use whatever malleable standard they want to champion their chosen player. So Thong Boy isn’t one the greats because he doesn’t make him teammates better, and hasn’t won the biggest trophies. He just scores goals. Messi isn’t one of the greats because he hasn’t won a World Cup. Etc, etc, etc, etc …. It doesn’t matter to fans and supporters of those players. Brazilians will hear Pele’s geriatric grousing and say “Yeah! Win a WC, then we’ll talk.” Argentines will say that Pele is silly, that Messi is already the greatest of all time, and so forth.
Like what you like, and do what you do. None of the rest of it matters. It’s similar to audiophile message boards, in which someone wades in with a silly question such as “What’s the best amplifier for $5000?” Then you get 927 different answers, all passionately argued, because everyone believes in what is the best to them, even as differences in perception, auditory perception in particular, means that the question is impossible to answer. And so it is with Messi.
–Ssssssh! This is two matches that Adriano has played without getting injured. Is a trend developing? Yes, I know I jinxed it, and he’ll probably get run over by a Barcelona Bus Touristic. But it is pretty remarkable.
–Speaking of remarkable, how remarkable was the Tello brace yesterday? Another good question. Bayer were truly beaten down by then, right? I like that he did it, I love that Guardiola had the confidence in Tello to put him into a match that was …. wait a minute …. fundamentally meaningless, over and done with. Still, the experience was good, and his talents were put on display: the dude has pace and is fearless. He doesn’t seem to respect anything or anyone, which is how a fast, talented young player is supposed to be. Is he the second coming of anything? We don’t even know if he is the first coming of Tello yet. Let the lesson of Pedro serve you well here. Or more recently, Isaac Cuenca.
–I was working on the day that Michael Jackson died. A lot of people forget that Farrah Fawcett actually died first on that day. Our newsroom swung into gear, then when Jackson died, Fawcett became a news coverage footnote. So it is with APOEL, who turned a pretty remarkable feat in taking out Lyon yesterday in the other Champions League decider. The Cypriot side that could moves into the quarterfinals, a thing that nobody, but nobody (except its most rabid fans) gave them a chance at pulling off. Scoffers will say that Lyon hasn’t been all that convincing this season, etc, etc. Still, APOEL is in the quarterfinals. Then some wee genius goes and puts 5 goals on the board, and nobody cares all that much about APOEL, except their fans. Hats off to them, and here’s hoping they don’t get us in the next round, because we aren’t Lyon. Not even close.
–In the “Who would you like to play in the next round,” Ramzi wins with his call: CSKA. For all of the obvious reasons, right?
Now to stop, before this brief thing becomes something not at all brief.