Archive | Messi

Barça 3, Eibar 0, aka “Football’s constant lessons continue”

"Still got it? I never lost it, son!"

“Still got it? I never lost it, son!”

Football is fun, mostly because it can teach us so much about things, like a crafty old veteran who hunkers down to explain everything that we missed about what we thought we had just watched.

One of the things that football teaches us is that expectations are illogical. As people crowed about Messi popping off the bench to bang in a brace for Argentina, and Neymar popping in four for Brazil against Japan and wondering how many they would score against Eibar, only a few cautioned that friendlies aren’t reality, and space given by a 3/4ths speed friendly opponent can evaporate when the match Matters.

Eibar rolled into the Camp Nou, a newly promoted side who sat in the top 10 of the Liga standings, ready to do battle for the point it arrived with, but willing to take three if fortune smiled upon its eleven warriors. And this wasn’t no stinkin’ friendly.
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Posted in La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts84 Comments

A personal standard, aka “Messi is better than Ronaldo is better than Messi”

jordan-shrug

The Shrug. The last time that I saw a truly transcendent performance by an athlete was by Michael Jordan, in Game One of the 1992 NBA Finals. One of the benefits of being an old man is that you had the opportunity to see stuff like that, an athlete beyond compare, on the biggest stage in his sport, against the man many suggested is as good as he is, for a championship.

And Jordan, simply put, lost his mind: 39 points, 11 assists, 3 rebounds and 2 steals. Jordan dropped in 6 3-pointers and after yet one more, shrugged as if to say, “I don’t believe it, either.” Football has no analog for that kind of performance. Ronaldinho’s standing ovation game against RM wasn’t one, neither are any of the 4+goal hauls of Messi or Ronaldo.

What was most interesting about Jordan’s performance in that game was that it illustrated that reality of an athlete becoming his own standard, someone who can only be compared to himself. Such things are worth noting the next time anyone thinks of choosing a side in the eternal Lionel Messi vs Cristiano Ronaldo debate.
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Posted in La Liga, Messi, Supposition, Thoughts26 Comments

Rayo Vallecano 0, Barça 2, aka “Achieving a state of grace”

rayomess

Winning is kinda weird when you think about it, because it isn’t supposed to happen.

Even if you consider what has to happen for a goal to be scored, never mind enough goals to win a match, the mind boggles at the amazing complexity of it all, the chain reaction of attackers doing the exact right thing, a sphere being struck by a running foot also doing the exact right thing on a playing surface that contains dips, bumps and other imperfections, finding another running set of feet in the exact same way, as the people trying to stop the ball from going into the net have to do the exact wrong things.

This absurd high-wire act has to happen again and again and again. A cycling coach once told me that to win a race, you have to do 100 things absolutely right. Do 99 of them right, and you finish second. 98 spot on, and you finish third.

Winning can best be described as a state of grace, because it is something of a seeming impossibility even as usually, someone wins and someone loses a match.
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Posted in La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts110 Comments

PSG 3, Barça 2, aka “Okay. So what happened?

Image courtesy FC Barcelona

Image courtesy FC Barcelona

The away Champions League leg to Paris St-Germain was like the baseball pitcher who has a perfect game going. Then he walks a guy. Next guy gets a hit. Next guy hits a home run and suddenly, it’s all gone.

Barça rolled into Paris on the heels of a single draw as the “negative” result, and no goals conceded. This was to be the match, the team’s first match against a grownup, where we would see what this group was really capable of, and a number of things happened.

– Barça conceded
– Barça lost
– Barça was easily controlled at times
– Barça committed absurd defending mistakes that would be a shame for Barça B, never mind the first team.
– PSG played its collective tails off in an excellent display.
– Barça didn’t

Seems simple, right?
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Posted in Champions League, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts102 Comments

Barça 6, Granada 0, aka “What a difference two days make”

Photo courtesy FC Barcelona

Photo courtesy FC Barcelona

Two tales from life, both having bearing on this post.

1. One of my bikes was making an odd, cricket-like noise. This brilliant mechanic checked everything, even pulling the bottom bracket. We scratched our heads as a much less talented mechanic said, “Hey, a chainring bolt is loose.” Voila.

2. My training week is Su: hard; Mo: rest; Tu: very hard; We: long moderate; Th: long hard; Fr: easy; Sa: moderate. On Sunday or Thursday, nobody can beat me. On Friday, my Mom can beat me. It’s the cycle of a training week, and the effect that it has on an athlete.

Which brings us to a pair of matches, and their effect on culers and analysts.
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Posted in La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts21 Comments

Perfection, Barça and notions of stability, aka “Foundations are important”

"What did that Dutch guy say about us?" "Dunno."

“What did that Dutch guy say about us?” “Dunno.”

There is as much danger in being overly pessimistic as there is in getting overly excited, but it’s very safe to say that there isn’t a culer who, even in a most optimistic moment, would have thought that after 5 matches Barça would be perfect: 5 wins and 0 goals conceded.

Last season Barça delivered the best start in the history of the club as a Christmas present, before fizzling to a trophyless conclusion. Whether you want to place the blame on the loss of Valdes, heartache, fatigue physical and psychological or whatever is up to you. Maybe it was all of the above.

Yet it isn’t misguided to suggest that this season feels different, even if the future might yet make this gaudy start a fond memory. Let’s have a few looks at feelings and why they matter:
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Posted in Champions League, La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts162 Comments

Celebrating without wrecking: Munir El Haddadi, aka “The next nothing”

"Hi, Mom! Am I famous yet?" (Photo by Miguuel Ruiz for FC Barcelona)

“Hi, Mom! Am I famous yet?” (Photo by Miguuel Ruiz for FC Barcelona)

Football is a weird, often absurd thing that makes us forget what it in fact is, which is entertainment.

As young people caper about a flawlessly manicured lawn in a quest for an inflated sphere, the next fat paycheck and maybe, just maybe, glory, supporters forget all of that. We clutch our replica shirts, scream invective or exultation after the result of an athletic clash which is nothing more than an entertaining game. Yes, football is life. But it is, at its core, a game.

Within that game things happen, moments of magic that elevate via that weird, vicarious thrill that makes us live through the athletes or teams that we support. Sometimes, like an electric shock an athlete jolts us into life and because of how the sporting world exists now, via 140-character blasts that vie for attention like newspaper headlines in massive print, there is hype. And where there is hype, there is scorn and cynicism, sarcasm and calls for calm.

It has happened before and will happen again, just as it is happening right now to Munir El Haddadi.
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Posted in La Liga, Messi, Thoughts13 Comments

GOATS, success, failure and Lionel Messi, aka “Be here now.”

messi

The World Cup is over and now the debates begin about Messi, roiling tempests that reduce the actual winner of the tournament to a seeming afterthought.

And they are so predictable that it’s almost lazy, as if by rote the same lines are drawn by the same groups of people:

– Look at the stats. He’s the best.
– He failed on the big stage, so he isn’t the GOAT.
– Y’all need to leave him alone, he is still the GOAT.
– Etc, etc, ad infinitum.

The truth is that there is no truth. It’s all immaterial.
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Posted in Messi, Thoughts, World Cup280 Comments

Misunderstanding Messi, aka “You don’t get it, but that’s okay. Hardly anyone does.”

clasmess

Messi doesn’t care. If you want to understand Messi, understand that.

It took a while for me to figure that out, but this most recent World Cup brought a lot into perspective for me regarding Lionel Messi. There have been some excellent articles on him: a piece that goes back to Rosario, a statistical breakdown that concludes Messi is impossible. And even before that, a lot of writing about a person, an entity, a thing that is impossible to put into words and next to impossible to be neutral about, because DID YOU SEE WHAT HE JUST DID??!!.

But I don’t think anyone can understand Messi because there’s nothing to understand. He just wants the ball.

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Posted in Messi, Supposition, Thoughts208 Comments

Buses and institutional arrogance, aka “Barça take planes, not buses”

bus

This has been the Champions League and week in which football has taken it on the chin.

– Chelsea beat Liverpool.
– RM stomped Bayern

It has also been a week in which the phrase “parking the bus” has acquired a heretofore unseen malleability as counterattacking football has become “parking the bus,” for reasons that are certainly valid in the heads of the folks who misuse it.

“Parking the bus” is when an inferior team stacks 10 behind the ball, with no real interest, barring some fluke, in scoring. You see it in league matches sometimes, when a team has an unlikely lead in a knockout tie. You might also see it when a cynical coach tactically misplays the first leg of a Champions League knockout tie (cough! Mourinho. cough!) A parked bus doesn’t want anything to happen as differentiated from counterattacking football, which wants something to happen but waits for an opportunity.
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Posted in Champions League, La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts41 Comments

The malleability of absolution, aka “If one is responsible, then everyone is”

"D-oh!"

“D-oh!”

So. Barça ended a 3-match losing skid with something that wasn’t as much a comeback as a bit of common sense rearing its head.

“Hey, what say we stop hitting the ball directly AT the keeper.”

Messi scored a goal so all is right in the culer world again, but for me something more interesting happened — not for the first time, but for the first time a confluence of happy events conspired — two players who are objects of scorn had the temerity to have very good matches. Song and Mascherano.

For me yesterday’s match was different because I didn’t watch it live, instead choosing to take advantage of a picture-postcard Chicago day to log 60 miles on the bicycle. This gave me the rather extreme pleasure of being able to watch the match, and scroll through my social mad-ia timeline as things transpired and quite frankly, laugh.
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Posted in Analysis, La Liga, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts223 Comments

Goldilocks and the Camp Nou, aka “The case for Neymar”

clasney

Neymar has a problem.
Neymar IS a problem.

Whichever (or both) of those sentences you think true, there is one thing we can agree on: Neymar is a galvanizing figure on the world football stage. When he came to Barça at the beginning of this season for a pile of cash, nobody knew what to expect.

Cruijff said that Neymar and Messi were incompatible. Others cried luxury purchase, that the club needed a CB more than a Brazilian with malleable hair and an Instagram fetish.

Still others said that he was one of the best players in the world even at the tender age of 21, with associative play of the type that could fit in very effectively at Barça.

He came, and then came the contract, an ongoing legal wrangle that makes both of this piece’s opening sentences true.
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Posted in Analysis, Messi, Neymar, Thoughts49 Comments

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