Messi, the live experience, aka “You don’t understand.”

Lionel Messi is frustrating, almost boring to watch on the screen. You watch on TV, you see YouTube highlights and you marvel, you think that you understand what’s going on, why he is the player that he is, but you can’t. Nothing drives that home with greater effectiveness than seeing him live.

During the Argentina match against Panama in the Copa America group stages, the packed stadium in Chicago was almost completely devoid of atmosphere. Even when Argentina scored early the reaction wasn’t that intense because the crowd was there to see Messi. When he came on in the 61st minute, Soldier Field went full electric. People rose to their feet every time the ball came near him, because you never know. When he touched the ball, an almost sotto voce roar began to build.

But the mood was also weird, in part because of the unfairness of boiling Messi down to a YouTube highlights reel, because there you only see the goals, the dribbles, the moves. You don’t see that 90 percent of the time, Messi is boring to watch unless you are a tactics nerd, or a coach trying to explain to a player how to move so that they are always in a spot where a teammate needs them.

In the crowd, people watched and waited for magic, not fully comprehending that the magic was when Messi was most Messi, that time before and in between when the ball went into the net. It is that time, and you can only see it live, to appreciate how differently Messi moves.

Players run. Legs churn, feet move, the body is propelled. Live, it’s almost like Messi is moving along a lubricated slot in the ground. There is effort. There has to be. But the quality of his movement is spatially odd, as though he is sliding around on the pitch on ice skates. One moment he’s there, and the next, he’s there. We watch on TV and think, “How the hell can defenders lose track of Messi?” But he doesn’t move normally. He plays the entire game as though it was that time when Barça got off the plane in some city. The place went nuts as the players alighted from the plane. Messi took advantage of the buzz to hunch his shoulders and sneak past it all. Nothing to see here. That is how he plays, which makes it weird when you, like most people in the crowd, plunked down your money to see him do something spectacular.

When Luis Suarez doesn’t have the ball, he is menace — moving, shoving, glowering, screaming even when silent. Defenders pay attention to him because he is so loud. Messi is quiet. So very, very quiet, almost soft. Very little of what Messi does is spectacular, even as it is astonishing. When he scored those goals people went nuts, but it was almost a sense of surprise, this ordinary box with a giant pile of “WHOA!” inside. Messi was standing there one moment, and in the next the ball was in the net. It’s like watching Dali draw a straight line. Sure, it’s just a line. But what a line. Look at how he holds the pen, the lack of doubt, the way the wrist sits. It’s art.

There was almost this sense of frustration when “nothing” happened, because here is the thing about Messi: he isn’t a player that you can fully comprehend the remarkable qualities of. The crux of the Messi vs Ronaldo debate is easy to explain. Ronaldo runs, he huffs, he puffs, he leaps. He takes crazy shots from distance. When he stands over a free kick it’s as if a gunslinger is waiting to dispatch yet another miscreant. He leaps high, runs fast, and you see it. When he has success, it is because he has bent the match to his will. He’s an exclamation point to Messi’s period.

For Messi the destination is the point, rather than the journey. When Messi runs, it is only because it’s faster than walking. He doesn’t huff or puff, and sweating is rare. His arms are at his sides a lot of the time. He doesn’t leap or take speculative shots. He stands over a free kick as if trying to solve a math problem. Messi has success not because he has bent the game to his will but rather that he understands how the match is angling, and positions himself to take advantage of that shape.

There is no purer expression of this than the first goal. In the picture above, Messi is just standing there. It seems crazy that the most dangerous attacker in the game would be left to just … stand there. Dani Alves once said of Xavi that he plays into the future. Messi seems to have already seen the future and knows where to be. It’s an uncanny quality of great players who seem to have things figured out. My seat at Solder Field was about 100 feet or so from the pitch, and it was odd to see Messi react to play just before the goal. He watched, shambled, moved a bit then tracked play. You could see his eyes watching, figuring it out. Then he scurried to a spot, and the ball came to him. Goal.

Yet the buildup is crucial. Messi lays off the pass, then ghosts into space, standing there to hold himself on, in space. You can ask how he knew Higuain would put his face in the way of the ball, you can ask how he knew that carom would fall directly to his foot, but that isn’t the point. Messi sees the game in a way that always puts him around the ball, and always at the point of maximum influence, which isn’t necessarily maximum danger in the personal stats context. Messi’s game is like one of those perpetual motion machines. Doors slam, gates close, dominoes fall at at the end, “Ta daaa!”

Kun Aguero is, when fit, one of the game’s top attackers. To watch him running around was remarkable, especially when you compare it to Messi. Aguero runs around like he’s looking for something he lost. He is chasing the ball, rather than understanding the game and moving to where the ball will be. Almost every player in the game does that, however.

Everyone saw the goal and for Messi, the goal is the point. His objective is to figure out the most effective way to put the ball in the back of the net. Everything else is secondary to that, which makes him frustrating to watch sometimes. There isn’t any show, nothing to see. He just slides around into the spaces and half spaces left by opponents. The muttering about how he has to drop deep to receive the ball as failure is a narrative that doesn’t understand what Messi has evolved into.

Teams still haven’t figured out that he has that pass, as evidenced by the last Argentina goal, the most casual assist plopped into the box. He does that pass time and again, but nobody plays him for it, because he’s just walking with the ball. This is another thing that you can’t catch on television, is the astonishing velocity and force with which he strikes the ball, with an almost nonexistent windup. He was just strolling with the ball at his feet and then, suddenly, it was on the way. There isn’t time to react.

The same thing happened with the free kick. From the stands, the pace generated through so little backlift takes your breath away. The shot essentially described a letter C shape as it nestled perfectly into the top corner. No drama, no gunslinger posture, just a person waiting to do his job.

Live gives you the sense of the physical force, how fast the game moves. For his third goal, there is no other attacker in the game who would have, could have scored that one. The defender played him perfectly. What you see on TV is the stop, the fake, the control. What you don’t see is how hard the Panama defender was trying, how perfectly positioned he was. It was like sleight of hand, performed by a guy with the ball at his feet, but never more than six inches from either foot. Can’t take the ball, can’t stop the ball or you risk a penalty and the keeper is helpless. He relaxes for an instant because he believes his defender has the play sorted. So does the defender.

Physicality is something that must be witnessed. You can watch something involving feats of strength on TV, but you have to see it to understand how violent, how crazy it all is, a person walking up to a bar that holds something like twice their body weight, and lifting it overhead. It is truly a remarkable thing to witness. Messi live is a similar thing. He’s pure power, but that is something you don’t really see. Ronaldo skies for a header, and the crowd gasps. Messi just moves in a straight line, almost always a straight line.

Messi is, simply put, the most boring stupendous player you will ever see.

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Written by:

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.

53 Comments

  1. georgjorge
    June 11, 2016

    Thanks for putting the “Messi experience” into such a great article.

  2. Jim
    June 11, 2016

    The main difference for me between TV and watching live is the rawness of the speed with which these players have to function. I remember watching Iniesta run Spain’s midfield in Xavi’s absence at Hampden from five or six rows from the pitch (so ground level) and watched him control everything with half a touch, put a curl on almost every pass so it fell into the path of a runner and send players the wrong way with a movement of the shoulder or even a twitch of his head. You know this is otherworldly because you are close enough to see the effort and the sweat on the faces of those force to chase and they are no numpties either.

    In stark contrast, have Russia really only completed 36 passes in the first 26 minutes of the England game. Really Russia ? Is that it ? Only one way this finishes . . . 🙁

    • Jim
      June 11, 2016

      Well this is gonna be one of those occasions where the post match analysis is WAAAYY more fun than the match !!!

  3. dafman
    June 11, 2016

    Maybe I misunderstood, but I believe you described Messi as boring. What about all the magic we have seen him do live and on tv time and again. Perhaps you meant to compliment his every move, even those seemingly boring strolls and glides, but this shouldn’t make us forget the magic. Oh and yes! watching Messi live as I have several times is a much more fulfilling experience

    • Jim
      June 11, 2016

      Not sure where you got that from Dafman but to me it is an article in praise of Messi and his unique approach to the game. Not that I speak for Kxevin but I took from this the idea that you could watch Messi for much of the match and think nothing was happening – then you’re a goal down before you know what’s happened. We’ve called it walking Messi here before but I agree with Kxevin that the mind is working non stop, analysing where he needs to be and exactly when. The football intelligence is phenomenal.

    • June 11, 2016

      Correct interpretation, Jim. Dapman, that Messi is boring is the entire point, explained in the contrasts above. Messi the accountant who saves you enough in taxes to buy a new car. He’s the barber who, every time he cuts your hair, women constantly say, “Nice hair.” He’s the tailor who does a re-cut of a suit, and you look 20 pounds lighter and infinitely more dashing.

      He is a craftsman, an architect of goals. Prima facie, it’s boring. Sorry, but it is. A short dude walks around, makes a couple of short passes, trots over here, makes another couple of short passes, then walks over there. The problem here is that people are )and everyone in the stands was) defining Messi by the end result, the goals and spectacular runs. Those moments comprise a tiny part of what he does when he is on the pitch.

      But to watch him work — how would it be to watch Picasso paint? Probably not all that interesting, unless you’re an art student or groupie. But the result is art, and worth gushing over. So it is with Messi. So anyone getting their hackles up because they think I believe that Messi is boring is missing the point entirely.

  4. dafman
    June 12, 2016

    I definitely understand the point. I very well comprehend that each stroke of genius is somewhat non-spectacular, while the whole picture is a masterpiece. However, IMO expecting the unexpected from Messi makes his every little step exciting. For me this is true on TV as it is in the Camp. Hence my disagreement with the use of “boring” in your article.

    Kxevin, on a personal note, I follow your posts and enjoy your perspective and insights. Thank you for your contribution to the intelligent football conversation.

  5. Jim
    June 12, 2016

    Dang. Barcastuff account suspended. This is where I get my breaking Barca news. Did this not happen before for publishing streams for illegal footie viewing ?

  6. Jim
    June 12, 2016

    Story of the suspension ( temporary) is “as usual” on his other account @barcastuffRIP

  7. Davour
    June 13, 2016

    A few Barca-notes so far in the Euro: Rakitic had a good game against Turkey – his confidence seems more solid in the NT (where he is star player, as opposed to in the Barca first 11) and he did good work. Arda, on the other hand… I hope things pick up. He looks like a player lost.

  8. June 13, 2016

    I too watched Messi once live, and that is a day I will never forget. So Kevin, I think, I can perfectly understand how you feel. On that day, Messi didnt score, but I realised that tv screens do not show even 50% of him.

    I agree with everything you said, except for his knack for being at the right place at the right time – for the first goal. This is the only one thing, in which I think CR7 is better than Messi. Messi too have it, if not he will never be a forward, but..

    Croatia looking like a very good team. Arda – what a poor day for him. Whats wrong with him.

  9. June 13, 2016

    The 1995 copa America, Argentina was leading 2-1 and then Brazil equalised after handling the ball. Brazil finally won the shoot out. Dunga then said, we will celebrate, losers find excuses. And look at him now. Am so so happy, sorry Alves and Neymar.

    • June 13, 2016

      The only shame about that Brazil/Peru match was that the goal was clearly illegal. Fatalists will suggest that Peru was denied a nailed-on penalty, so things worked out.

      Brazil played attractive, attacking football in the first half, then regressed. The average position of Willian was the surest indicator, functioning as a winger in the first half, always looking to create and raise hell. In the second he was more like a DM.

      Neymar is the biggest gainer from this trip, for sure. He not only exploded the presence of his personal brand, but everyone now understands how essential he is to Brazil and their success.

    • June 13, 2016

      Things really did work out, didnt it. In the previous match as well, they gained a point only because a goal was ruled out.
      Brazil only have themself to blame, as they should have scored against a Peru and Ecquador. But I never thought they would go down in the group stage itself, even if it was Dunga.

  10. Davour
    June 13, 2016

    So much talk about all the glorious players in the Euro – but few mentioned Iniesta, the ever “forgotten” Maestro (in my country, the big Euro guide even forgot to include him on the 50-best-players–in Euro-list!). He showed them. Again.

    Nolito looked pretty sharp, too (from what I saw). Shame he took so long to bloom. Cesc? Not so sure.

  11. Chiu
    June 13, 2016

    Iniesta were Spain best players in Czech game. every time he touched the ball and initiated the penetration, Spain created chances.

    Spain hope to retain Euro title will be much dependening on Iniesta performace,as I dont see any talismanic besides him that could turn the game around. Though David Silva looked pretty good also, setting the attack together with Iniesta.

  12. TITO
    June 14, 2016

    Interesting claims by Blatter about some hot and cold balls during UEFA draws.
    I know he is not someone to believe, but it does make you think about conspiracy theories.
    He was probably referring to draws made for the European championships but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Champions League draws over the years is a part of some higher scheme.

    • G6O
      June 15, 2016

      It’s actually quite difficult to rig a Euro or a WC using just hot and cold balls — there simply isn’t enough information, and remember that those get drawn only once (once the groups are drawn, the whole thing is determined from there)

      However, the CL is a different matter — the groups do not really matter and then are draws every round (and it should be noted that until recently it was the case that the draw for the QFs also determined the SFs, but this year there was a separate draw for the SFs).

      If all that is needed is to make sure that certain teams get an easy draw or don’t draw each other, that can definitely be done with hot and cold balls.

      Which does make you think.

  13. Jim
    June 14, 2016

    Ok, contentious time. Is anybody else starting to worry about Neymar ? If I’ve seen him at one party I’ve seen him at fifteen. Pool parties in Vegas and quite often with his dad ? Is it just a Scottish thing or would your dad be the last person you would hit a party with ?

    I’m just getting twitchy that he’s Brazilian and now, what, 24? The next two or three years will be his peak , he’s coming off his poorest spell for us yet , he has a son and all I’m seeing is him surrounded by drunken pals at a different party every night.

    It might be nothing but having just seen ( not participated in ! ) my first Vegas pool party while on holiday you can’t keep that up and maintain your fitness. I say this as a great Neymar admirer and staunch supporter but I look forward to wakening up one morning to a pic of him building sand castles on the beach with his son . . .

    • Davour
      June 14, 2016

      Looks a bit shaky, but hard to know what is happening from fragments. I guess he is not drinking – and who knows if he’s running 10 K every morning?

      Good thing Twitter was not around in Gazza’s days. Can you imagine?

    • Jim
      June 14, 2016

      Yeah, but the thing is he WAS doing all the stuff ! Might have brought matters to a head earlier for him but can’t honestly say it would have saved him.

      I just hope Neymar has some wise heads around him. We are totally spoiled with most of our side ( seemingly) being pretty grounded but it wasn’t always so. Maybe that’s why a strong La Masia presence is important to our side in terms of lifestyle as much as anything football related.

    • June 14, 2016

      Neymar is Brazilian, but he isn’t Ronaldinho. He doesn’t drink, and is smart beyond his years as regards messing up the golden goose. He also has a very smart management team that is guiding him, and none of them, player included, want to see the meal ticket messed up.

      The thing to wonder is how many of those parties are brand-building photo ops. His U.S. visit has been a massive hit in terms of exposing him to new fan bases, from Justin Bieber to Michael Jordan to Serena Williams.

      Neymar is just fine, and had a better season than many give him credit for, even as I understand the need to judge him by the late-season stuff instead of the early season and period where he essentially carried the team while Messi was injured.

      Neymar isn’t Xavi, going home to tend mushrooms, or Iniesta. I’m fine with letting him be.

    • G6O
      June 15, 2016

      Ronaldinho was already known as party animal in PSG. Not just known, legendary in fact.

      Nothing of the sort has emerged so far about Neymar, therefore I don’t see a reason to worry either

    • Davour
      June 15, 2016

      Hey, today I caught a picture of Neymar’s son on Ney’s twitter – things are improving!

      On a different note: I can’t believe CR’s comments on Island’s game (parking bus) and post-game celebrations (as if they’d won the Euro). It is as if the last clasico did not happen.

      Takes the biscuit, that fellow.

    • June 15, 2016

      As long as he isnt after all these extravaganza during the season, am really not worried.

    • Jim
      June 15, 2016

      I’m reassured, guys. Not knowing his management team I suppose I’m basing my worries on the inability of my countrymen and myself to attend any gathering of note without partaking of a jug or two of vino and ending up on the top of a human pyramid in some side street ! He really doesn’t touch the stuff ?

    • June 16, 2016

      I wont be able to watch, as its work time. Would be so glad if Wales can defeat England by a 1-0.
      Sorry Jim, no idea why, but always love to see England team humiliated.

    • Jim
      June 16, 2016

      Fotobirajesh, I am both shocked and appalled that you would wish such humiliation on the England team. I don’t know where such a nasty sentiment comes from and Ill be thinking of that if Wales score – as I dance around the sofa shouting ” Yessss !!!! ”

      You should try living next to them . . .

    • June 17, 2016

      Feck, everything I wish, is not happening these days!!!!!!!!!!

    • Doug
      June 18, 2016

      That’s hilarious. I watched it 3 times. I thought I got into it watching Barca play. That guy’s a couple more games away from a heart attack.

      I feel sorry for his wife if he finds out she was turning off the TV.

  14. Jim
    June 16, 2016

    Just sitting down for England Wales. Have to say I’m loving the fans getting into the national anthems. The Italians the other night blew me away.

    The BabC a few minutes ago showed a highlights clip of Gareth Bale which confirmed my worst fears: that he is way overrated.

    Now would be a great time to prove me wrong, Gareth.

  15. Jim
    June 16, 2016

    BBC of course.

  16. G6O
    June 16, 2016

    Off=topic, but I am I the only one who finds it painful to watch the Euros after having watched too many Barca games in his life?

    Today has been especially bad — first England and Wales, at this moment Ukraine and Northern Ireland. It’s just a torture to sit through.

    We take for granted things like stringing several dozen passes in a row, dribbling past a defender, proper positioning to find and open space, not rushing shots and instead looking for the extra pass that will result in an even better opportunity, visionary through balls, etc.

    One would have thought that after so much time has passed with Barca dominating the game, there would no place for low-skill-level, agricultural football. But it’s still well and alive…

  17. Jim
    June 16, 2016

    Good point G60. However, bottom line is that it’s not a choice for most teams. Even if they can play a passing game it comes apart under pressure. My hometown team actually tries to do that every week but with every pass they manage the ball speeds up, the movement stops and you can almost see the fear in the players’ eyes as the ball is fired at them whereas Iniesta can take any hospital ball and turn it into good possession.

    Just rewatched the first twenty minutes from that famous game against Arsenal ( because I was bored with Germany Poland) and it is without doubt just about the best twenty minutes of football I’ve ever seen. But you don’t need just two or three players to do it. Everybody has to be comfortable on the ball under pressure. That’s what makes a Barca signing such a challenge. That’s why the midfield is still the vital area for controlling the ball ( loved Slaven Bilic’s rant about that the other night) And that’s what makes this guy literally irreplaceable.

    https://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/news/2015-2016/xavi-in-thrall-fcbarcelona-football

    Still miss him and counting the days till he returns as manager !

    • G6O
      June 16, 2016

      Yeah, I know, what we see every week is truly exceptional and very few can pull it off.

      But we get so used to it that we often forget what a privilege it is to watch it,

      So it’s good that every couple of years we get a chance to appreciate it 🙂

  18. ooga aga
    June 16, 2016

    Saw Argentina in Seattle two nights ago. Messi played the second half. Highlight for me and pretty much worth the price of admission was Messi nutmegging the keeper. You can find YouTube clips. Everyone in stadium including messi and the keeper thought the play was alive, when he megged him. He woulda scored! Fantastic. I was also in the same stadium in 2009 when Barca played an exhibition match vs Seattle Sounders, when Messi scored two goals of the highest quality. I an thankful Messi has wandered into my corner of the globe not once, but twice! Vamos albiceleste!!!

    • June 17, 2016

      Great moment for you. Even Messi might have felt humbled by the Bolivian goali’s comments later about that..

  19. Jim
    June 17, 2016

    Ash, Friday night, up early for golf tomorrow but now I get the chance again to watch Iniesta at his peak. Hard to believe one day he will be gone.

    The good thing is lots of love, and understanding of the game, from the BBC panel for Ini. Only sour note was the attempt to split him and Xavi in terms of brilliance. Total agreement with the panel that journalists are blinkered by goal scorers for awards and now that Xavi can’t, surely Ini deserves a Balon D’Or ? Still remember Matt Lawton’s stupid headline ” the three best players in the world ( and Xavi)” love it when he appears on my Sunday Supplement football writer programme on a Sunday. He still takes occasional abuse for it.

    Come on, Spain. It’s about time the forwards did something if the team is going to win this. That and Ramos playing well above his normal standard !

  20. Jim
    June 17, 2016

    Oh, and sorry Spain, but you need an anthem your supporters can sing. This has been a great Euros for national anthems getting belted out but all Spanish supporters can do is hum along. What’s that about ?

  21. Jim
    June 17, 2016

    Ok, 50 secs in and the plonker is found out already ! No way he survives the other 89.

    • Ryan
      June 17, 2016

      And he’s their captain, no less!

    • georgjorge
      June 17, 2016

      I love how I learn new words just by reading your comments. “Plonker” – has a nice ring to it!

      It seems that Iniesta is getting far more credit when playing for Spain than when playing for Barcelona nowadays. Of course, his roles are very different here and there, but I think he fulfils both very very well. Silva is looking rather lost at the moment, Fabregas has played some nice through balls but nothing else. I wonder if the midfield would look better with Cazorla instead in there…

  22. Chiu
    June 17, 2016

    Iniesta is magic! His vision, his through ball, keeping the possesion, seeing another players movement and pass that ball beautifully in place.

    Those little flicks and turns that make Spain game more interested to follow. I admit that one of the reason i watched Spain game because I want to see Iniesta twist and twirl keeping the ball and make opposition looks “hopeless” stealing the ball.

    If Iniesta have a good tournament, Spain’s chance to reach the final is promising. If Spain win this Euro to make it a “hattrick” (2008, 2012, 2016), I hope Iniesta would win the Balloon D’Or as a last recognition for one of the best players/midfielders in the history.

  23. Gekko64
    June 19, 2016

    we’re supposedly signing Umtiti from Lyon, does anyone here have a decent knowledge of the player?

  24. Jim
    June 19, 2016

    Nope but he’s on the bench tonight. Unlikely to see him this tournament which is a pity. I think he’s about the same age as Varane ( 22/23 ?) but well behind him in the pecking order. Given that I’m not overly impressed by France’s CBs in the tournament so far that’s not an endorsement. He’s also not very tall for a CB and we know all about that. However, he is well thought of in France and it looks like we’ll have enough CBs to allow him to learn. I’m sure Kxevin will know a lot more about him as he I think he watches French football.

    Pogba is looking more lively so far this game which is about time as he has been poor so far. However, Switzerland are giving the French far too much time on the ball at the moment . I hope we’ve forgotten about that move anyway.

    Can’t help feeling that with the amount of talent they have at their disposal the French should have a better team. ( Lloris, Evra, Matuidi, Cante, Pogba, Griesman, Payet ???)

    • June 20, 2016

      Being a football junkie pays off. The best way to think of Umtiti is tall Mascherano, with fewer slide tackles. This ain’t saying much as he’s still just under 6 feet tall. But dude’s a baller. Crazy closing speed, has the ability to make stops and tackles without fouling. Hops galore, so better in the air than his height will make people believe.

      30m is a fair price. He’s one of the hottest young CBs in the game, and can also play LB. Has all the tools. He’s also a player still developing, so people should be patient, even if they won’t be. His first error, and some will be asking why we sold Bartra. We sold Bartra because he wasn’t good enough and was never going to be. Umtitii could partner Pique for years to come if he develops properly. Happier with him than Marquinhos.

      Also a versatile player. Barça likes to sign Swiss Army knife-type players. Umtiti’s pace, like that of Abidal, will enable three at the back, heretofore an impossibility because though Mathieu is fast up and back, he doesn’t have sideline-to-sideline type pace. Umtiti does.

      This is a very good scouting report on him, from his youth. http://outsideoftheboot.com/2013/04/29/scout-report-samuel-umtiti/

      — About your France comments, Jim, if the strike force (Gignac, GeeWhoo) and back line (Koscielny, Rami) matched the midfield, they wouldn’t even bother playing the tournament. But their best striker is sidelined because of midget porn, and Mathieu would reassure me a lot more than Rami, and Varane also pranged. Griezmann shines when he has someone to play off, who can stir things up. That ain’t GeeWhoo, and Gignac is just a waste of space.

      The back line looked a right mess against Switzerland, even with the glorified friendly status of that match — both teams knew a draw would suit them. And GeeWhoo is going to miss some key chances, and will cost Les Bleus just like he costs Arsenal. And I will be sad.

      The other problem with Les Bleus is at fullback. Any team that has to start Evra and Sagna is fundamentally flawed.

    • Jim
      June 20, 2016

      Thanks, Kxevin. I knew you followed French football but then you seem to watch more than anyone I know ! Any tips on how you get away with this with your good lady would be appreciated.

      What you say sounds good. You’re not going to get a CB, especially for that price, who will have all the attributes we need.

      For me, in order, I would look for game (CB) intelligence, pace and a desire to stay on his feet. From what you say he has these so I’m now officially excited by the prospect of his arrival. Same applies as to any new player, though. He gets ( needs) a season to accustom himself to our ways. Especially in this position he will make mistakes which might well cost goals. Worth putting up with if he is as talented as you say. If he is prepared to learn and work on this he could form a pretty amazing CB partnership with Pique, who, imo, we have probably failed ever since Puyol left. He will be even better with a genuinely talented CB beside him. I’m not keen on three at the back, ever, but we’ll cross that bridge when ,or if , we come to it.

      With regard to France it is a shame that the weak elements in the side could well do for their chances. A Mathieu / Koscielny partnership at the back might well have been enough to see them through to the final. Although they have a number of very talented mids I can’t see what they are expecting of them. There seems to be little structure or organisation to their passing game and because they haven’t yet played a team worthy of the name they’ve been able to mask this. At the risk of continually being a Debbie downer on Pogba, it’s good news for me that he seems to be talking to RM. He will in no way draw them together into a side and I’ll not worry about them until they threaten us through teamwork and passing.

    • June 20, 2016

      Haha, well my wife and I have an understanding, that you don’t take something from someone that you love. So she lets me watch all the footy I can handle. It’s easy, even as I’d be a fool if I didn’t recognize how lucky I am.

      Her joke is, “If you hit “Last channel” on our remote and the TV isn’t already on a football channel, it will go to one.”

    • June 20, 2016

      Because he’s Dani Alves. That’s why. That little bit (okay, lot bit) of crazy that he brings to the team will be missed.

  25. June 20, 2016

    Ha ha, finally, some English journalist have started asking it differently
    The time has surely come to withdraw one of the most frequently asked questions in football: When will Messi reproduce his club form for his country?
    In fact, it is probably more appropriate to flip the question round; can Argentina come close to replicating the form of Messi’s Barcelona teammates?

    http://www.espn.in/football/copa-america-tournament/0/blog/post/2897957/argentina-brilliant-enough-to-overcome-any-defensive-deficiencies

    • raj
      June 21, 2016

      Yes, thanks for the link Rajesh. It indeed is high time everyone just accepted that there is (or even ‘was’) no one equal to the little guy

      I was watching the England game yesterday. I can bet my house that they would collapse against the first decent team they would come across. That – despite 90+ attempts on goal in three matches – they wouldn’t be allowed to touch the ball against the likes of Spain or Germany. Overrated and over-hyped as usual.

      It sucks that I will not be able to watch the Argentina match as I would be travelling, but I should be able to watch them in the finals (I wonder why USA will even bother showing up, it is Messi, guys!)

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