Immortality

 

6 Ligas

2 Copas del Rey

6 Supercopas de España

3 Champions Leagues

2 UEFA Super Cups

2 FIFA World Cups

1 Olympic Gold Medal

Most Ballon d’Or awards (4)

Most European Golden Shoes (3)

Most goals in a calendar year (91)

Most goals scored in a season (73)

Longest streak of goals scored in league matches (21)

Most CL top scorer awards (4)

Most CL hat-tricks (4)

Most goals in a single CL game (5)

Most goals in CL knock-out phase (31)

Most La Liga hat-tricks in a season (8)

Most La Liga goals in a season (50)

Most clásico goals (21)

Most clásico hat-tricks (2)

Most goals scored in a year for the Argentinian national team (12, shared with Gabriel Batistuta)

Most goals scored for F.C. Barcelona (354)

hi-res-1151dd47efb8ff50f9bb2cb58413ef04_crop_north

I could go on listing Lionel Messi’s achievements (thank you, Wikipedia) but you get the point, we are talking about who for many culers is the best player in the history of world football. For others, this debate died out when he ended his first trophyless season since five years ago and had not managed to add to his record-breaking streak of four consecutive Balon d’Ors. For today’s short-term memory suffering public, apparently your place in history is only as good your last match. In 24 hours the possible addition of “World Cup (1)” to the above list, however, can kill the argument forever.

It’s hard to find what to make of Argentina this summer. They looked excellent during the qualifiers, but were it not for the fact that they’re playing the final they would yet have to convince me as one of the favorites for the World Cup. To even just a somewhat critical eye they have failed to impress in encounters with Bosnia, Iran, Nigeria, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland. They look disjointed, and have yet to play a game in which they both attack well and defend well.

The semi-finals played out like some weird game of reverse chicken, with two cars parked on the opposite end of the road whose drivers refused to put their foot on the gas for the best part of 120 minutes. A team featuring who many still consider the best player of the world should not have let a match go to penalties against defenders who had at times looked shaky for their clubs in the lowly Eredivisie last season*. It was a dogged affair in which Argentina were afraid of Robben and Holland were afraid of Messi.

messi holland

Perhaps due to El Kun bowing out early with injury, Higuain being not nearly as effective as during the last two years in South America and Di Maria playing well below his abilities**, defenses have so far managed to shackle Messi during large parts of the games. The Flea has looked muted, and although he jumped up to decide the first four matches, from the quarter finals onwards he has had little to no direct influence on the proceedings. It’s a testament to Messi’s astonishing skill and ability that even after five relatively subdued performances***, he has made more key passes than any other player in the tournament. His goals during the group phase were a pleasure to behold, as were the run and assist that finished off Switzerland and the mind-bending pass to Ángel Di Maria against Belgium, preceded by a Riquelmesque pause.

However, like his performances for our club this season, this is not the Messi we have enjoyed for so long. He is still capable of the impossible, but we have stopped expecting the impossible every time he receives the ball. He has stopped being irrepressible and at this moment, he is no longer the shoe-in for the best player of the world in the obvious way that he had been during the previous four years. A combination of injuries, fatherhood and the negative climate that has surrounded F.C. Barcelona for some time now seem to have taken its toll. That, and of course, the fact that his sustained level of achievement is already unparalleled in soccer. Nobody has ever been the best player of the world for four consecutive years. It borders on the inhuman and, much like our club’s trophy haul, to expect it to continue forever is not only madness but also extremely unfair.

A whole different kind of madness will take place tonight and whether it will be fair or not remains to be seen. Argentina has made the final of the World Cup for the first time in 24 years and again, it’s their number 10 who is looked upon to bring home the trophy. However, unlike his ex-coach, the Germans Messi will face are the overwhelming favorites to win the tournament. The team has no weaknesses and no injuries, and they have demolished both Portugal and Brazil with devastating score lines. The worthier their opponents, the better they’ve played. They are intelligent, well-coached, physical, technical and speedy. They possess all the virtues and no real flaws. Argentina has to be perfect****, and Messi has to bring it.

The pressure is immense and more than ever before, the eyes of the world will be set on the Argentine playmaker. Many will hope that he fails. Yet many more will want him to win the biggest prize in football. If he does, he will become, without a shred of a doubt… immortal. The best player to ever play the game.

It’s possible that next season he continues his slide at the end of which it would not surprise anyone if Bartomeu sold him. Or not. He could move away from the false 9 position and into midfield. He may yet remain with us for the rest of his career. Barça can win Ligas, Copas and Champions Leagues. Or we could win nothing. But regardless of what will happen with Leo and the club in the years to come, the sheer possibility for a player who grew up in La Masía to become the game’s undisputed G.O.A.T. is something worth rooting for. Tonight, for one night, culers all over the world will be Argentinian. We’ll treat the albiceleste as if it were blaugrana. ¡Visca el Barça! y ¡Viva Argentina!

lionel-messi-jesus

 

* Three of the defenders that played against Argentina represent Feyenoord. To give you an idea what that means in terms of world football, Feyenoord got eliminated in their Europa League qualifier by F.C. Kuban Krasnodar. Who? Yes, exactly. The 29-year old leader of the defense, Ron Vlaar, plays for Aston Villa, who ended 15th in the Premier League last season. The left back for 75 minutes of the match? Dirk Kuyt, a 34-year old striker.

 

** If you’re Sabella, you have to resist the urge to start Di María. History is littered with examples of good forwards playing injured in important matches. They usually do more harm than good. Play Pérez, who had some decent moments  in the semis. What you lose in quality, you’ll gain in fitness and attitude.

 

*** The first half against Nigeria is the exception that keeps it from being six.

 

**** Not only perfect, Argentina has to be lucky. While Germany’s defense and midfield are quite capable to hold off their opponents, the team as a whole is simply too good for Argentina to cope with, especially with a less than fit Aguero and Di Maria. They’re not playing Holland, where they could shut down Robben and worry about little else. Müller, Kroos, Götze, Khedira, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Hummels and Neuer are all important players on teams that made the Champion’s League final in the last two years. And then you still have guys like Özil, Klose, Mertesacker, Boateng, Schürle, and a host of others . These players more than make up for not having a superstar in their ranks and more so than any other, they play as cohesive unit. However, as we all know, this is football. Ninety minutes do not always stand up to the scrutiny of logic. Tonight, anything can happen.
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80 Responses to “Immortality”

  1. agar2515 says:

    “From the quarter finals onwards he has had little to no direct influence on the proceedings.”
    I disagree there and all my reasons why are stated wonderfully here: http://jenfcb.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/world-cup-why-messi-is-the-most-influential-player-in-the-tournament/

    It is a real testament to the bar he’s set that people (not saying you) can claim he’s been underwhelming these last few games. What player in history wouldn’t look his best when pitted against sides completely designed to nullify him, ONE MAN.

    I hope so much he and Argentina win tomorrow and that he plays a pivotal role in the proceedings. We are blessed with one of the greatest ever and very few simply look for a way to say ” SEE he’s not THAT! Great” , again an issue echoed in that piece I posted and NOT a direct accusation of yourself ( see I’m being very careful with my words now, no feathers need be ruffled).

    • Levon says:

      Thank you for reading.

      I think the key of the passage you quote is how one interprets the word “direct.” Without reading Jen’s article (it’s getting late here) the influence he had against Holland was huge. LVG adjusted his whole gameplan on stopping Messi. But his direct influence in terms of actually creating danger has been a lot lower against Belgium and Holland.

      “It is a real testament to the bar he’s set that people (not saying you) can claim he’s been underwhelming these last few games.”

      That’s the exact point, though. It is precisely because he set the bar so high that his performance becomes underwhelming when he doesn’t reach it. It doesn’t make the claim hollow. I think it’s undeniable he is no longer playing at the level of 2008/09 to 2011/12. It’s also entirely logical. Those are probably the best four years that anybody has ever played football.

      It’s why I wrote “He is still capable of the impossible, but we have stopped expecting the impossible every time he receives the ball. He has stopped being irrepressible…”

      Let’s hope he has a great game tomorrow!

      • agar2515 says:

        Ah, I see what you mean now. This is actually a pretty fair assessment when I compare it to some other things I have read. I really hope for great game tomorrow too, Argentina has come so far as a team unit from beginning to know, fingers crossed!

  2. agar2515 says:

    And for what it’s worth, this is easily the opponent I will hold the least amount of disdain for. I simply know too many proper German fans and appreciate too many of their player far too much to root with any real vitriol against them (unlike if they happened to play Holland, Brazil,England,Portugal, USA).

  3. hammeronmessi says:

    From QF onwards his direct involvement wanes,however his influence on the match cannot be ignored,it can be argued that the match became so cautious because of him.

    Marcotti wrote a wonderful piece on this Messi Paradox.

    http://www.espnfc.com/team/argentina/202/blog/post/1947707/messi-making-the-difference-at-right-time

    • KEVINO17 says:

      Bit si0lly to say that Messi has lost his speed because his top speed at the WC has been measured at 29kmph. Messi’s advantage has never been his top speed but how quickly his little legs get him to his top speed.

  4. Lord Eddard Stark a.k.a. Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one! says:

    You know, I’ve been trying to catch all the signs and patterns to figure out who will emerge victorious today. And I am torn. Naturally as a Culer, I’d love for Argentina and Leo to pick up the coveted prize.

    BUT…

    Football, and particularly this WC has shown that what seems apparent, is anything but. WANT also accounts for nothing as evidenced by the cruel way Brazil were kicked out of the competition. Let me try to see it from both viewpoints.

    A case for Germany:
    – Quite simply, apart from Spain, Germany has been the most consistent TEAM the past decade. They have also played the best football. Free flowing at times, disciplined, technical and physical. Best of all worlds.

    – They have been reaching the Semis with deadly consistency. Too bad they havent been rewarded in the final stage. Bayern recently triumphed despite consecutive failures. Is there a sign here?

    – They are a team without standout stars. They are also a real TEAM. This bears an undeniable similarity to all the teams that have succeeded in recent years – at both club and international level. This germany team in many ways reminds me of a spain. a different kind of spain. in the way they are a midfield centric side.

    – Spain won the last, a side which had over 6/7 starting players coached by Pep. Hmmm..wonder how many players Bayern has.

    – Simply put, they deserve to win. The best team of the tournament and a side that has been extremely consistent and easy on the eye the past few years.

    A case for Argentina:
    I must admit, there aren’t that many strong points here apart from the sheer desire to see Messi and Masch win the trophy for all Barcelona fans and a football mad nation who haven’t had any cause for celebration for two decades.

    – in 86, they did. and in 90, Germany beat Argentina. Is it their turn now?

    – A player like Messi really does deserve this. I mean, really. Not as a Barca fan or a messi fan, but as a football fan, a sports fan.

    – He’s been the best player in the world for an unbelievably long time and it’s a shame that he hasn’t gotten the support at his national team, the way that his club teammates have. Messi could have easily chosen to represent Spain and added possibly 3 Euros and 2 WCs to his trophy cabinet, but chose instead, to do something great for Argentina.
    Make no mistake, this is the closest he is ever going to get in his career. And he knows it.

    – Sometimes Luck playes a huge part. Sometimes, the best team in the competition does not win. Ex: Inter Milan in ’10. Italy in ’06. Chelsea in ’12. Let us hope that Argentina will have luck in their side today.

    • Davour says:

      As someone put it: the greatest team in world against the greatest player in the world, that’s the drama here.

      It is ironic, as has been noted, that the last WC, where Messi possibly were an even better (or at least more dynamic) player than today, in term of dominating the filed, was lost much due to Diego as coach…

      Anyway. For me, there is a distinct difference between ‘best’ and ‘greatest’, here. Messi might already be the best player ever, reaching a level which surpasses everyone else. He is not, however, the greatest player ever. This seems to require something more, something less substantial than stats and dribbles – it is the narrative, perhaps, that Maradona managed by being larger than life and lifting his teams and dominating games.

      Messi’s humble approach and inclusion in the best team ever reduces the drama of his narrative in this respect. But should he win tonight, after dragging this team of fighters and injured stars through the tournament, one could argue that he has done wonders (bravely aided by Mascherano, of course…). But either way, to my mind it is still impossible to measure greatness by pure results or set criteria. It is rather HOW something is done.

      (On the subject of greatness, if you haven’t already, I recommend you to read the novel The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, where the immaterial nature of greatness plays a central part)

  5. PrinceYuvi says:

    Thanks Lev.

  6. barca96 says:

    I pray to all the Gods that Messi will perform and win tonight. Messi really needs all the luck tonight. I just don’t see Argentina beating Germany under normal circumstances. This Germany team is an all round team and they have experience coming far in tournaments for the past 6 years. 8-9 of their players are one of the best in their positions while Argentina only have 3-4.

    Hopefully tonight Argentina will work great as a team and do the unthinkable. Now that di Maria is out they all need to work even harder. Messi needs to work hard too, he just has to. He can’t wait for his moments which might not come.

  7. Jim says:

    Enjoyable first half despite the lack of goals. Argentina need to somehow tighten up their left side of defence. Not as impressed as some by the LB. He’s left his post far too often for me. Lahm will kill them eventually from there. Still not over as Germany don’t have much pace at the back but I just wish Argentina had someone to control the midfield and get Messi the ball a bit easier.

    • barca96 says:

      There is no creativity from their midfield at all. Messi will have to drop deeper to collect the ball but when he does that, Higuain and Lavezzi need to move more off the ball and be more clinical when presented a chance.

  8. barca96 says:

    Once again Messi disappears in the 2nd half.

  9. ciaran says:

    Argentina miss Di Maria as much as I dislike him. Gago, Biglia and Perez have no where near the quality of him when in possession so Messi has to play further back than he usually does.
    When the ball does get into the attacking third he is not on an attacking position.

    That Germany team are very fit and it isn’t helped by the fact that they had a day extra between matches and in truth Germany only had to play 30 mins versus Brazil whereas Argentina played 120 versus Netherlands. Not only are Germany better they are better prepared.

  10. ciaran says:

    Hummels badly caught out by Rojo’s cross but Palacio isn’t a natural finisher. Very good chance for Argentina

  11. barca96 says:

    I don’t understand why Sabella keeps on taking off Lavezzi. He’s very energetic with his dribbles and off the ball runs. No one else can do what he does.

  12. Gekko64 says:

    can anyone explain to me what horrible thing Tevez did to not get called for Argentina?

  13. ciaran says:

    I can’t argue with the result, Germany deserved it. I am glad that it wasn’t Müller that scored the winner though, I don’t like him at all. Maybe Argentina might have a stronger squad in four years time.

    • Peter says:

      It will probably be without Mascherano, and who will replace HIM?
      Messi will be 31. Messi will be 31. I feel like crying, and I’m not even close to being an Argentinian. I will be 35, Messi will be 31.

      It was a pity that Di Maria wasn’t present, but Argentina had a few shots themselves. If Palacio had controlled that one a little better, it could’ve gone in.

      In any case Romero probably deserves the Golden Glove, so many saves… except for the one that really counted. :(

      Sad. Argentina, poor Argentina, so many years of suffering, and no end in sight.

      And Messi seemed in pain once again. Crap.

    • barca96 says:

      Hahaha again same thing I was thinking. As long as it isn’t Mueller. I find him so incredibly annoying. Good thing that Goetze is the one who scored too. It prevented Mueller from getting the Golden Ball and Goetze’s WAG got extra air time.

  14. ian_percival says:

    Wel it seems we all wanted Lio to win the WC,but it seems he wasn’t interested.

  15. G6O says:

    OK, so it’s the WC final and that is still not enough to wake Messi up. I think it’s time to get seriously worried.

    • barca96 says:

      Same here. I was thinking the sane thing during the natch. I’m worried for next season. He should take extra long holiday to give him a chance to rest and a chance prove me and you wrong. Unfortunately we need him for the first couple of months because of Neymar and Suarez so it’s highly unlikely he can have an extended holiday.

      • G6O says:

        I am starting to think that the Suarez purchase and even the Neymar purchase have, in addition to all other considerations, at least a little bit to do with a thought in the back of the minds of the club that they may have to do the same thing with Messi that they did with Ronaldinho. The pattern is starting to become very similar :(

        • barca96 says:

          The similarities with Ronaldinho came across my mind last season but I don’t think they are that similar. Ronaldinho just preferred partying and off the pitch stuff rather than focusing on football whereas Messi isn’t anything like that. So I really don’t mind standing by Messi and wait for him to return to his best. I don’t mind waiting for him to regain his form for 2 seasons. He deserves our patience, at least to me.

          But for now he either lost interest after winning so much or he has a serious physical problems.

          It could be the former but I just struggle to believe that because even though he has won everything for his club and personal glory, this is the World Cup! And that was the final. He will only get one more shot and even then he might not make the semi final let alone the final.

          So I’m leaning a bit towards physical problems. He did look 70-80% of his best at times when he first came back from injury this year but after that he just got worse.

          Could it be the after effects of his growth hormone use as a child that is making him tired much faster than a normal person?

          If he won the World Cup tonight, I really don’t mind him retiring right away.

          • G6O says:

            When I posted that, I did not have the reasons in mind, just the outcome. Which is the decline in performance.

            The HGH thing might have something to do with it, but it has to be some complicated causal chain that results in him only being unable to run after his 25th year or something. I don’t see a clear mechanism

            And it’s not tiredness we’re talking about here, he could have hardly been tired in the ET due to the previous 90 minutes, given that he basically walked the whole game, yet he looked completely uninterested in what was going on around him.

            And then there were moments when he exploded like his old self, in the first half he did that twice from the right wing and would have really scored on the second one in the past.

            So I am leaning more towards explaining that with a psychological problem.

            BTW, it’s is worth remembering that Ronaldinho’s decline began right after the WC, in which he was supposed to be the big star yet failed to live up to expectations, largely because the team (and the preparations for the WC) were totally dysfunctional, and it has always seemed to me this had something to do with what happened afterwards, because that’s when the smile and the spring in his step disappeared.

            This is a different situation, obviously, but it is clear we should be really really worried about what happens next.

            And what happens in the first two months of the season.

            Messi will need a long rest after the WC
            Neymar is injured and won’t be back to training until mid-August
            Suarez is banned until October

            This means that not only will the whole attack not take part in the pre-season, but some or even all of them might not start the season, which begins on the 23rd of Augusut…

          • Levon says:

            I always thought the same regarding Ronaldinho and the WC. They burned a statue of him in his hometown in the aftermath, and I always thought that he just said, f*** it, I’m just gonna party, then.

          • G6O says:

            That happened indeed, but it might have been even more than that. If you remember, that year saw the biggest Nike hype campaign of all time, centered mostly around him and his freestyle skills. And the CBF played along, abandoning all proper preparations for the WC (they played almost no friendlies and the ones they played were against the Fluminense youth team and against New Zealand, if I remember correctly) and they turned the training sessions into a circus, with thousands of people watching and the players having to sign autographs and do circus moves instead of practicing.

            And once they went to the WC they played an inexplicable formation (two heavy strikers in Ronaldo and Adriano, and Kaka and Ronaldinho behind them) that clearly did not work instead of the formula that won them the Confederations Cup the year before (where it was one heavy striker and a fluid three behind them in Kaka, Ronaldinho and Robinho). Which many thought was again dictated by sponsors.

            So basically you had enormous pressure to win from the Brazilian public (which had the right to expect a WC as they were the reigning champs and they had an even better squad on paper than in 2002) while everyone involved was actively working against the team’s success. That is too much weight and unfavourable circumstances for one person to carry and fight through and still succeed

          • posthipsterpope says:

            I’ve had the same curiosity that G60 has had regarding the effects of the HGH treatment Messi received up to what I assume was around the time he broke into the first team at Barca, and quite possibly continuing until he reached full growth maturity, which would have been more around 20 or 21. The treatment obviously had an positive effect on his muscle structure, and it made him an outlier considering his explosiveness, low center of gravity and strength, and just overall body shape. But I have to think that it likely that it has come with a price, maybe increased fatigue or fragility of those same muscles when worked to this degree. All the talk during the year was about how his injury and time off would result in him being fully fit for the WC, but he clearly has not been. Maybe this is the new normal.

          • G6O says:

            It was curious to see what happened to Lebron James, who is widely suspected to have extensively used HGH too (but without any legitimate medical reasons) in the first game of the playoffs this year when the air conditions in the building failed. Temperature got to 30-32C, which is really not that high. I have played in considerably hotter conditions hundreds of times, I am sure everyone else has too, without any issues, and you would expect that top athletes would not have any problems, and this was the case for all of them except for the most athletic person on the court, who got horrible cramps and had to leave the game eventually. Makes you wonder…

            The problem with growth hormones is that their effects on the body are not really well-documented, and for a good reason as their use in sports is illegal. Messi is a special case, someone who was allowed to use it for legitimate reasons.

            Still, I think there is a significant psychological problem here. On those two occasions in the first half he easily outran that defense, and I highly doubt he could have gotten tired by the end of the game from the minimal physical activity he was exerted throughout the game. He must have had at least a few explosive sprints with the ball in him, yet he looked completely burnt out and disinterested…

  16. barca96 says:

    I’m only staying on for the German WAGs now

  17. ian_percival says:

    Or maybe he’s in oden’s sleep,Thor remember?

  18. TITO says:

    Ok, now let’s get back to buying players.

    • barca96 says:

      Even though Himmels was beaten one on one 2-3 times I think that he’s still an upgrade over Pique. I would be delighted if Hummels is the CB that we’re signing that played in the World Cup as suggested by the board.

      • barca96 says:

        I wasn’t that impressed by him World Cup but my pundit thought that Hummels is the best player of the tournament. And that if Luiz costs 50m then Hummels should cost 100m. I should’ve watched Hummels closely cause I find it quite hard to believe his claims.

  19. Levon says:

    I want to repeat (or expand on) what I wrote in the article and in my first comment. The only problem Messi has is us.

    It is unreal to expect a man to maintain the level of football Messi has played from 2008/09 to 2012. The only other player who ever dominated a team sport the way Messi has was Micheal Jordan, and he needed 18 months of baseball after leading the Bulls to a three-peat. The pressure of not just being the best, but being outer-worldly good, so much better than anyone else, is something not a single one of us can relate to. Most of us cherish Messi, and we would love for him to continue to play the way he played, but we need to chill.

    So what’s the solution? It is doubtful that he can take a one-year hiatus. I think the move to midfield is becoming more and more important, as it will take some of the weight off of his shoulders. Also, the club needs to find a way to make him feel comfortable. Unfortunately I have little faith that the latter is going to happen.

    • agar2515 says:

      Very true. The amount of gleeful hatred on social media right now (especially after he won the Golden Ball) is too damn high. Best response is a great season for FCB.

      • Jamal102 says:

        The disparaging comments on Messi on Twitter sadden me greatyly. Some claim he wasn’t even the best Argentine player. Mascherano or Di Maria are better according to them. It’s impossible to argue with these type of people.

        Also the case for someone else to win Golden Ball:

        James- Great player but was nullified by two challenges + nullified by Brazil’s defence. I repeat BRAZIL’S DEFENCE.

        Robben- Great Player, Great Actor

        Muller- Great player but on a great team.

        • KEVINO17 says:

          What’s Messi supposed to do when he’s playing with a team that’s happy with 30-35 per cent possession? He’s obviously been told to stay reasonably high to provide an outlet and preserve himself for the decisive moment. That entirely suits Argentina’s style of play. But I do wonder if it will suit Barca’s next year. Will Messi play deeper? Will be be more involved in pressing, etc etc? Be very interesting to see.

          Another interesting thing about Messi is that he is not sensational on the counter. He can really pile on the coals for 20 metres or so, but then the sprinters start coming over the top of him.

          • KEVINO17 says:

            In other words, next season, will we see the Messi of the “decisive moment” or the Messi who is more engaged in the flow of the game. If Barca has pretensions to be a great side (with many great players) it definitely must be the latter. In which case, Messi must reinvent himself again.

          • G6O says:

            He used to be able to outrun defenders over longer distances, but not anymore. But he never had great linear speed like a Gareth Bale or someone of the sort, he is short and not built like a sprinter, his greatest ability was his speed over the first 5-10 meters off a dead start.

            But that has started to disappear too :(

        • Levon says:

          I think the Golden Ball would have been between Messi, James and Robben. Had Messi not been Messi, he would have had a better claim for the Golden Ball but the truth is his last three games weren’t the best.

          Robben is being vilified for going down easy but the alternative is for defenders not to foul him. Problem is they cannot not foul him cause he was too good this tournament, a tremendous threat for every defense except Argentina who dedicated their tactics to nullifying him (like Holland did to Messi, too).

          Kevin017 makes a good point about Messi not suited for playing on the counter and I was saying the same thing during the game. Nevertheless, the vintage Messi who ruled the world would have found a way to own this game and he would have scored at least one of the two chances he had today. There’s no use denying it.

          [EDIT] Barca96 mentions Hummels as a Golden Ball contender. I could have lived with that.

          • Inamess says:

            Great discussion about Messi! I forgot who had made the point in previous post but it does seem like Messi’s body is just different from normal and for whatever reason he doesn’t have the explosiveness and endurance that he once had. For me has hasn’t been the same since his PSG injury.

            Barcelona know more about his limitations than we do at this point, but I imagine that the Suarez deal was partly down to Messi’s decline is running riot on defenses. Aguero and Higuain were probably not the answer to our problems either.

  20. KEVINO17 says:

    I thought Boeteng was sensational today. Cleaned up absolutely everything in the air and kept stepping forward to cut off passes.

  21. KEVINO17 says:

    I don’t agree with all those who say that Messi has lost pace. All that has happened is that he is being double-teamed and triple-teamed. They really do swarm on him. As soon as he beats the first man, the second man jumps him. He got a one-on-one on the wing in the final and absolutely skinned his opponent. But that seldom happens.

    • Levon says:

      Messi being double-teamed and triple-teamed is not new, though.

      • KEVINO17 says:

        True, but it’s more a phenomena of the last few years as Barca has got weaker and other teams have got more sophisticated in their defending against Messi. You just don’t see him these days breaking from the half-way line into clear space.

      • G6O says:

        Exactly, he used get out of those with ease. And in fact he still does occasionally

        • Jim says:

          There is certainly no loss of pace for me. Tonight showed that. I tend to agree that we are witnessing teams set up with only one thought in mind. Would have been nice to see what was possible tonight but I’m afraid nobody on the Argentina side showed much creativity at all in getting the ball to him.

          Whatever, he should now get a month off, be put through a full preseason and we can judge then. I’m actually quite excited by the thought of having ( eventually ! ) three clever footballers up front who can all beat a man in a confined space and at least two of them are natural goalscorers.

          • G6O says:

            Getting a month off and a full preseasons are mutually incompatible thing.

            Preseason starts tomorrow…

          • Jim says:

            Not if you want to do it properly. He doesn’t have to start the season. Mind you I suppose that’d mean starting the season with none of our front line. What’s the alternative for him ? 2/3 weeks off and he’s raring to play in the first games? Even without the physical effort the mental side of this WC will have fried his brain.

            As a matter of interest if Messi isn’t ready for the start of the season what’s your front three ?

          • G6O says:

            I have no idea. It really depends on whether Neymar is ready, and most likely he won’t be – he will have just fully healed in mid-August, and then he will have had a week and a half of training at most. So we will have to play Pedro and Deulofeu on the wings and Rafinha as a false 9 or something like that. I don’t fancy that. If Neymar is fit, he plays in the middle and things look significant;y better, but overall there is a real danger we will start the season losing points :(

  22. Nav says:

    *http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=854626

    Riots in Argentina with people burning the number 10 and Messi’s pictures. WTF Argentina…

  23. agar2515 says:

    Sure hope Lucho has a plan for the mental aspect of the game. The Spanish players were embarrassed (but at least got a much needed rest), Ney and Dani saw injury and poor performance make them bystanders to two consecutive thrashings, and Leo… well I sure hope he recovers from this. This season could go wonderfully or it could be a disaster, and I think most of the determining factor will be mental ( a lot of people saw burnout last season under Tata) , for the talent is surely there.

  24. ian_percival says:

    I think argentina paid for their miss,palacio,higuain,messi and i think palacio is disgrace for a footballer

    • barca96 says:

      That’s harsh on Palacios. He worked hard for the team. He was the one who stole the ball on the halfway line vs Belgium and released Messi who in turn released di Maria.

      I don’t like that Sabella keeps on taking off Lavezzi and plays Palacios instead but Palacios isn’t that bad.

      I really don’t understand why Sabella keeps taking off Lavezzi. He is the only one who can offer the closest to what di Maria does. Without Lavezzi, they look toothless.

  25. Valdemar II says:

    Argentina played a great game and should have won. Three to one in good chances in their favor; even though they were fatigued they kept the germans from creating much of anything. Problem is they were generally wasteful, even outside the box.

    Are people upset over Messi? Laughable; he was MOTM with 10+ dribbles and some 5 chances created, even did a couple of defensive full sprints in this game. Shame he couldn’t win, but that doesn’t taint his legacy at all; why hold him to this arbitrary standard of winning a world cup? Why not tell him to win four, to beat Pele, and score 17 goals, to beat Klose?

    • barca96 says:

      How was Messi MOtM? Football is not just about numbers. You need to work hard for the whole match, a warrior. Look at Mascherano, Schweini, Lahm. Those are the type of players that worked their asses off to win. Messi was ok with his contributions but he could’ve definitely done more and is no way a MOtM contender.

      • Valdemar II says:

        I suppose you could make a decent case for those other players; they played well, but they have a much more thankful task in a closed game such as this. Messi was the best offensive player on the pitch. He created alot in a game where not much was created. You could sub a Schweinsteiger for a handful of other players in the world, wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Could you have put someone else in Messi’s place and extracted a better performance? Don’t know about that.
        (Not that all of this is a big deal or anything.)

        • barca96 says:

          You could sub a Schweinsteiger for a handful of other players in the world, wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Could you have put someone else in Messi’s place and extracted a better performance?

          Great point! I don’t have an answer to those questions. But you’re right, it is easier to replace a Schweinsteiger type of player rather than a magical player like Messi. But talent alone won’t get you far, you need to work hard.

          • barca96 says:

            Schweinsteiger was everywhere on the pitch and hardly put a foot wrong. At the end of the day it looked as if he came out from a mudwrestle instead of a football match :lol:

            He was my MOtM last night followed by Mascherano. And then Boateng. Boateng was always in the shadow of Messi’s marker. Whenever Messi beat one man, Boateng would appear to boot the ball away.

      • Jim says:

        Disagree. It’s easy enough to work your ass off – that requires no talent. It depends what you’re awarding it for . For me, it’s the player who has the biggest effect on a game and Messi was the only one on either side who could take very little and turn it into something. Anyone getting the space Lahm did should be able to take advantage and look good. I agree Schweinsteiger would have been as good a choice and I thought Zabaletta was great.

        People have short memories. I’m sadly old enough (just) to remember Pele in his heyday. He didn’t exactly put himself about the pitch for the team either (and had at least 5 other world class players in his side.) George Best, one of the best players I ever saw live didn’t, R10 didn’t. When you consider the pressure on him from the world, how little possession Argentina had, how poor their passing was, how ineffective their midfield was and how poorly Higuian and Aguero played, what did we expect Messi to do ?

        Having said that I don’t think I’d have given the overall award but he did all he could have with that side.

  26. TITO says:

    To what has the world come. This actually limits with pure blasphemy. As i woke up this morning i started to read some headlines, and instead of focusing on Germany wining the WC, editors and commentators focus on the more important topic – MESSI didn’t win the WC. He will never be the greatest.
    I have never seen in my 30 or some years of knowing football, a footballer to be singled out so much about everything related to success.
    I had quite some arguments with my folks as well, cause, well, Messi didn’t score 30 goals this game, he didn’t passed through the entire opponent team etc, etc. And baring in mind that the game last night was his best in the tournament. He made runs, he had shots, he even had a chance, which usually he isn’t allowed by scrupulous defenses.
    But, there were times when he would just collect the ball, stand in the middle of the pitch, look up, and kept the ball, because he knew that there’s nobody to whom he should pass the ball and expect a build up play to something more direct.
    He set the standards in those ridiculous years, and they will haunt him until he plays active football, and probably after that as well.
    Can’t believe how many people are happy just that he didn’t win the WC.
    Personally i’m worried how will all this effect on him. I think we should expect some unhappy times ahead of us. Even if he wins more titles with Barca, i just can’t foresee happiness in his face because of that particular title.

    • Davour says:

      True – it is disgraceful, but people always want the mighty to fall, it seems (as long as they’re not on their own teams…). While I agree that there seems to be a problem with Messi – either physical or psychological – I agree with Valdemar II that the WC standard is ridiculous (thought not that Messi was MOTM), and find it absurd not to properly acknowledge his contributions in this tournament, too. Best player, most take-ons, most created chances, most goals from outside the box (as he is is a rare guest inside it), leading a ragged Argentina to the WC final and losing it by a hair… ANYONE else would have been celebrated (I don’t hear many beating down on Robben for not landing there gold or excelling in the semis). What would an Argentina with a fully fit in-form attack been able to achieve? Probably not more than this, considering the attacking version of the team (as seen early on in the tournament) appeared very unbalanced, leaving huge gaps between the attacking and defending lines. No Riquelme to merge the two…

      This said, it is obvious, as Levon mentioned, that there is a decline in Messi’s game: Leo of old would (supposedly) have buried those chances, run more and impose himself more explicitly on the game, and not tire so visibly in there latter part of the games. Or would he? It is hard to always measure him against himself – he will inevitably lose. He is not as good as he was (and that he is still the best just shows the astronomical level he occupied before) – but how can you be, with whole teams dedicated to limiting your particular influence? And it would not be the first time an injury indicates the beginning of the end of greatness.

      So, as been indicated above: the riddle will be what to do with the Messi as he is – and plays – today, not to try and hold him up to the standards of old. In other words, allow him a second coming, suited to his current game (like Pirlo in Juve). I hope Enrique and the board has this in mind, instead of selling him.

  27. Lord Eddard Stark a.k.a. Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one! says:

    Just a sad sad day.
    Seems like the football gods have no sense of imagination or sympathy.
    Well, Congrats Germany. You were by far the best team of the tournament. But real hope and the closeness of it all to ultimate glory makes for a very cruel ending to the Argentina story.

    A few thoughts.

    – Higuain, you’re a piece of shite. That was an unbelievable gift from Germany at the very start. You are a striker. And this is the world cup final. If you can’t bury the chance, atleast put the ball on target especially if you are facing the goalkeeper and the goal all alone.

    – A fit Di Maria would have certainly caused more problems to Germany.

    – Aguero was disappointing too. Could Tevez have offered more?

    – It was striking how Messi simply didn’t have anyone to play with on his own team. No one to give a one two, no one on his wavelength. It was always going to be a near impossible task for one man to take on and beat the entire German team.

    – Was absolutely stunned when Messi failed to net that one opportunity he had. So unlike him. Did nerves get the better of our unshakable flea?

    – I am sorry, but Biglia, perez and palacio aren’t the guys that should be playing a world cup final. Could the squad selection have been better?

    – Stay cool Leo. You are still the greatest in my eyes.

    • Di Maria’s injury was a killer blow. But Sabella’s substituition were pathetic. First there was no need to take off Lavezzi at the half time. He was brilliant harrasing the Germans till then. Second was once he put Kun and Higuain together, he should have forced Messi play a deeper role. You could see that Messi was tired, but that does not explain why he never tried to drop in to midfield and create something in the later parts of second half.

      • barca96 says:

        Yeah and it wasn’t just last night that Sabella took Lavezzi off. He did this the whole time and every time LAvezzi came off, there was less urgency and pace with Argentina.

  28. barca96 says:

    The legendary Mourasaint with his usual drivel about Messi;

    A scurrying rodent has always been his style. He’s just (de)volved into a less mobile, less involved type of rat.

  29. barca96 says:

    Have a look at this video compilation of Suarez’ best goals. Astonishing.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShLl3Nbjpmo

  30. Real bummer ending to that match. Argentina reminded me a lot of watching Barcelona last season with a “horrible” defense which does´t actually allow many goals and a lauded offense which can´t seem to score.

    ———————————————–

    @ Kxevin: I just wanted to respond to comments on racism earlier. My comments were not meant to be offensive and if anything passed then you have my apology. However, negrito does not actually translate as “n*****,” and I think these translation issues are what Peter and I are really getting at here. It would be like saying “blackie,” which while offensive, does not give off the same amount of violence as the aforementioned word. There are plenty of other terms in Spanish that had he said, would be much more overtly racist.

    Though I did not grow up in a situation where racism was particularly prevalent, it is hard for anyone, black or white, to avoid it. It is institutionalized in most, if not all countries in some manner. Here, is the US, it is obvious that our entire system of jurisprudence still punishes African Americans more frequently and harsher that white Americans. In Spain, racism is even more cultural and much more openly spoken than in the US, and in Latin American it is even worse. Part of what annoys me about the Suarez racism scandal is that it does not create an adequate discussion of capital R racism. The racism that allows the Guatemalan cook, who is treated as a lesser citizen, to stereotype black people, etc. I think this discussion is a good one, and, while in retrospect, the tone of my paragraph was too sarcastic (and for this I do apologize), I do not think that a discussion of ´negrito´is too sacrosanct for debate. Debate about racism, even between to middle aged white upper class males, is not going to be a bad thing.

    My point is and has been that athletes and super stars are not pillars of morality, and holding them to these standards does more harm than good, as the real value being promoted is largely greed. Don´t get me wrong, I love sports. I´m an avid cyclist as well, and I watch almost every Barça match, but for me it´s intense entertainment and at it´s best an expression of physical art, like a ballet. However, I would NEVER consider these players, especially now in the era of the millionaire athlete, real role models. It was one thing to desegregate baseball, but quite another to give some small percentage of one´s immense fortune to some charity. In other words, Suarez should certainly be punished, because we do want our institutions to set standards of appropriate language, but the vilification is too much, and I think it is due to translation issues, which are a common problem for Anglo-Americans and their general refusal to pick up a second tongue.

    I´m getting carried away–my curse of being too opinionated and wordy. The real point here was to apologize if there was any offense and I´ll leave it there.

  31. Tsivoman says:

    It is really puzzling how a great player like Messi chose to just walk in match of such magnitude.Oddly, I thought he was conserving his energy for the final only for him to replicate the same “I-don’t-care-strolling-on-the-pitch-attitude” and i say this as huge Messi fan.
    I knew it was going to be difficult for them to win without Di Maria, but unlike Messi, Di Maria wouldn’t have shown the soggy attitude of Messi.
    It maybe an agreement/instruction from doctors that he should sleep-walk (conserving energy) during games the way he’s been doing but it has really become a sad sight for some of us to see. What we saw in Barcelona has been transfered to Argentina, other nine outfield players must run their socks off while one man is allowed to walk because at any minute he might produce a moment of magic that might decide game. No matter how much decisive Messi may be, the other players have now become slaves of one man simply because they are not as gifted.

    There was even a time/moment during extra-time against Germany when Mascherano was galvanizing the players in a circle and yet Messi was just standing outside the circle looking the other way.

    Watching this final was a deja-vu of the decisive Atletico match last season at the Camp Nou for me.

    Are we expecting too much of Messi? Maybe we are but surely there’s something going on with the man, be it physical, mental or otherwise.

    It will be interesting to see how LE is going to handle Messi.

  32. fotobirajesh says:

    These are the words from none other than our own Translator, cant believe that he has publicly stated this about Messi. But I am grateful someone like him has come out in support. – taken from Barcastuff

    “Messi sacrified himself for the team. He wanted to win, he didn’t wanted to be topscorer or mvp, he wanted to make history.
    “Messi played in zones that are not his. He had to play so low that he had to cross 2-3 lines. Always had 2-3 players on him.
    “Messi was trying to create something out of nothing for his team. His assist to Di Maria was for example brilliant.
    If Messi wanted to be the phenomenon we all know he is, he’d just have played up front, close to Higuain, waiting for a chance.
    All my respect to Messi because he played for his team and this can’t be said of all players at this World Cup”
    “Messi deserves respect more than ever after ARG came so close. Easy to respect when he wins but when he lost, it’s not so easy.
    “He is still a historical player. He does not need to be world champion to be a historical player, especially in this last decade”

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