I’ve had the pleasure of watching Lionel Messi play just twice. In both matches, he’s failed to score, which, considering both matches were after his explosion into the greatest player of his generation (circa 2009) is a surely a statistical improbability.

Both times, the general reaction to his display was muted; I’m unquestionably yet to witness a Messi masterclass. However, on both occasions he was quite evidently Barcelona’s best and, most important player. If he were any other person on the planet, his performance would be described as exceptional. From Messi, we expect genius every week.

When Simon Burnton of the Guardian interviewed Billy Beane and asked who the most underrated footballer was, the Moneyball mastermind had a fine answer. “You know, I’d actually say Lionel Messi,” Beane declared. “He’s so remarkable, watching him play, he’s probably still undervalued. When you’re scoring five goals in one Champions League match, there’s no value that’s too high.”

For the majority of top footballers, take away their main asset and they’d become an average player. You can basically do three things when you get the ball: dribble, pass, or shoot. Messi can do each to an astoundingly high level.

Messi the Dribbler

Taking on opponents remains a key feature of his game, yet his role as an exclusive dribbler is in the past. When Messi broke through into the Barcelona side, beating defenders was his primary quality; he caught the eye because of his speed, his upper-body strength, and his sheer directness.

His reputation soared when he scored his Diego Maradona-esque goal against Getafe, running from the halfway line to goal. It probably wasn’t his best goal, it certainly wasn’t his most important. Nevertheless, it became the first defining Messi moment because it summarized his game beautifully—he picked up the ball on the right then dribbled infield towards goal. Simple.

Barcelona are a side based around passing ability, probably to a greater extent than any side in history. That’s what made Messi’s directness so thrilling. In tandem with Dani Alves, Barcelona’s right-hand side during Pep Guardiola’s first season as coach was fearsome. Messi would pick up the ball and attract two opponents, while Alves would speed down the outside.

Messi’s re-deployment as a central player makes his dribbling less pivotal. One associates dribblers with playing on the flanks, and with good reason: the centre of the pitch is more crowded, the obstacles are more frequent, more unpredictable and more immediate.

Yet Messi continues to be a fantastic dribbler, and the key is the manner in which he receives the ball from teammates. Out wide, it is simple: you get a sideways pass, let the ball come across your body slightly, then take on the full-back. In the centre you have to be on the half-turn, you have to drift away from your marker until the final second. It sounds like a cliché, but Messi starts his dribble before the opponent has even realised he’s in possession of the ball. He’s always on the move, always thinking one step ahead.

Messi the Finisher

Messi is not as pure a poacher as, say, Falcao, but he’s every bit as assured. Granted, his all-round game is hugely beneficial to his goals record—a significant proportion are scored following dribbles, even when beating a single opponent. Some follow one-twos; his precise passing and his incredible acceleration are key attributes in that respect.

Besides, being a great poacher isn’t simply about the physical act of finishing. It’s about movement in the box, and the ability to take split-second decisions about where to run, how to position yourself. Watch Pippo Inzaghi for a season, and it was amazing how many fortunate tap-ins he scored. Watch him over five seasons, and it happened so regularly, you realized it wasn’t luck.

Messi has that knack. He also has an incredible ability to stop moving, which might seem like a questionable virtue, but it’s wonderfully handy—he can charge towards goal, force an opponent up to their maximum speed, and then stop. Just like that. It forces opponents and teammates to continue their momentum while he is standing still, poised to strike. Maybe it’s simply great reactions, but it seems more of a physical thing.

Finally, of course, there’s the finishing itself, which barely needs any explanation or discussion other than to say that his goalscoring record hasn’t yet been fully appreciated. Ronaldo’s 34 in 37 for Barcelona in 1996/97 was legendary; Messi scored 50 in 37 last year. Yes, that’s with the benefit of a fantastic team behind him, plus a wildly imbalanced league, but it’s still an outstanding record that may not be surpassed for decades.

Messi the Passer

This is Messi’s most underrated quality. It’s natural, of course, to highlight his other areas. It’s more spectacular to beat an opponent, and it’s more meaningful to score. If you want to admire Barcelona’s passing, you go to Xavi Hernandez for short, reliable distribution that sets the tempo of the game You pinpoint Andres Iniesta for a perfectly-weighted through-ball.

But Messi’s passing quality—or, specifically, his ability to play penetrative passes—is equally as impressive. It’s part of the reason he ended up in the ‘false nine’ role, and why Barcelona were so successful under Guardiola with that system. Messi’s ability to squeeze passes between opposition full-back and centre-back, into the path of Pedro Rodriguez and David Villa, was crucial to Barca’s success.

When Sergio Batista attempted to replicate Barcelona’s style for Argentina’s 2011 Copa America campaign, the key instruction was for the wide forwards to make those same runs, in order to get the best from Messi’s passing. The focus wasn’t on his dribbling, or even his finishing, but his distribution. Messi often came extraordinarily deep to receive the ball, deeper than the two opposition holding players. He simply became a creative midfielder. His passes were generally excellent, but the only player who understood the wide role in a positional sense, Ezequiel Lavezzi, finished poorly. If only Messi was on the end of the passes, too.

This only takes into consideration the passes he plays within his specific role. Watch Messi warming up before matches, punting 50-yard balls to Alves, and it’s clear his long-range passing is exquisite; every time, the ball drops perfectly at the Brazilian’s feet. Even more impressively, he’s tremendously accurate with his weaker right foot. He’s left-footed, but he’s not purely left-footed.

****

As a teenager I played football with a classmate named Steven, who went onto play at a decent standard in the English football pyramid. He was so superior to everybody else involved in our Friday afternoon matches that we were forced to restrict his movement. He played as a holding midfielder, and so he wasn’t allowed outside his own half. Bizarrely, he and his side accepted the request, safe in the knowledge he remained the best player on the pitch, and the game was more balanced.

Messi won’t encounter such constraints, but I’d love to restrict his movement for three separate matches. First, I’d let him operate only in the final third, to showcase his shooting. Second, he’d have to stick to one flank, to highlight his dribbling. Third, I’d restrict him to the centre of midfield. to demonstrate his passing.

In three completely different roles, I’m confident he’d remain Barcelona’s key player. And that, in a roundabout way, shows why Messi is so devastating: he is three world-class players combined.

Comments (36)

  1. Good read.

    Does Messi have a fantastic team behind him? If he does, why does it seem like Barcelona sans Messi will struggle to finish in the top 3 in the league? Messi has been the difference maker for the last few seasons now. Unless they provide him with the attacking support he richly deserves rather than wasting money on Fabregas, David Villa, Ibra etc. I am not sure how they can deal with the absence of Messi. It is just sad to see he is being asked to carry the team (both club and country) at such a young age. Hope all this stress doesn’t cause him to burn out.

    • Completely agree. Hate to see what will happen if Messi gets a long term injury. Lets hope its not a repeat of Van Basten when he played for Milan. That coach drove the team to their limits.

    • I’d have to disagree with this. Just the point that the team would struggle to be top 3 in the league without Messi. When watching Barcelona they always struggle a little when missing a key component. They have trouble creating without Iniesta in the line up. As well as when Xavi is off the pitch they tend to not win and create a lot of scoring chances either. Barcelona’s strength is their midfield and central defense. They were winning championships before Messi and people are forgetting this with players like Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol. He definitely takes them to another level because he is surely the best player on the planet. However, even without Messi, Barcelona would have no problem finishing top 3 in La Liga. Remove Messi from the team it’s basically the Spanish National side. Arguably the strongest international side in history so his squad is pretty amazing.

      • Jrose, you make a good point, but Barcelona misses Messi more than they would miss Xavi, or Iniesta. He just scores goals for them, plain and simple. They don’t have another volume scorer. Last year he had 2 hat tricks with both Iniesta and Xavi on the bench, and 3 with Iniesta on the bench. But I didn’t know Barca won a lot of championships before Messi. I’d have to see some proof of that. I know they won in 2006, but they had Ronaldinho. 2009 and 2011, Messi was a difference maker. If you remove him, it’s essentially the Spanish Side, but the Spanish side do not play against club teams, they play against other National teams, most of which are not as strong as club teams.

        • “They don’t have another volume scorer”

          David Villa.

          From September 6th, 2011 until he went out injured at the club world cup he scored 12 goals in 25 games (plus 3 assists) for club and country, while Messi was also scoring a boatload (you have to figure that without Messi, Villa would take more of Barca’s shots).

          Since he came back from breaking his leg he scored 4 goals in his first 8 games as a sub, playing 20-25 minutes per game. That’s 4 goals in about 180 minutes.

          But don’t let reality get in the way of your assertions or anything…

      • Jrose there’s a famous table often used in football forums that shows the positions the teams would have finished in the 2011/12 La Liga without Messi’s and Ronaldo’s goals. Madrid remained 1st, Barca were 6th. While this is by no means an exact or accurate depiction – surely if they didn’t have these players they’d replace them with very good ones who would score lots – it does give you an idea to how over-reliant Barca are on Messi. Last season he was the sole goalscoring outlet for us, in a season marked with injury for Villa and Pedro and inconsistency for Alexis. It’s true that without Xavi we’re not the same team and without Iniesta we lack an edge in the important games. However, without Messi or when he has a bad game, we just don’t get all 3 points.

        • Jesus Christ. You’re a Barcelona fan and you don’t even understand your own system! Messi is the focal point of your attack and final third creativity because that’s how the formation/system is set up!

          Your argument is like taking Mikel or Makelele out of a team and saying “That didn’t change anything, why the hell do we need a holding midfield?”. You simply cannot statistically quantify the importance or ability of a player without considering context.

        • They’ve developed a habit of giving Messi the ball even when they themselves can score. That’s what Messi expects and most of the team don’t mind (Tello and Iniesta don’t seem too happy about this). Without Messi they’d be 2nd in the World, 2nd only to this Madrid side. Probably the best madrid side that we’ve ever seen.

    • Very interesting point that you stated at the end of your comment, Sir!

      I don’t know if I would use the word ‘sad’ with regards to the pressure and responsibility he has to endure.
      Actually the mental strength of Messi could be his biggest plus. Messi does not feel all the weight that is put on his shoulders, that is because he does not realize himself what an absolutely unique gem of a footballer, of a football god, he is. I honestly believe that mentally, Messi still feels like a normal person, or even a little boy who’s loving to play his football.
      But Messi is 25 now, he has lived this situation for at least 4 years now – and still his character didn’t change. It will not change in the future, he has mastered this inhuman, ‘psychologic challenge’.
      What do I mean by ‘psychologic challenge’?
      Well, players like Ronaldinho threw away their talent, because they couldn’t take all the praise, they couldn’t act responsibly with their fame, money and so on. It changed their psyche, their mentality, their moral – everything. It is hard to stay as you are, once you become aware of how special and admired a person you are (independent of your profession, i.e. football player, other sportsman, singer, actor, …) . The thing is, Messi is the most admired of all. But ask him, and I bet he seriously does not feel so, not even the very slightest fraction of it. This enables him to conserve his greatness, and the fact that he gets still better is simply the logic consequence of more experience and his body not yet reaching the climax.

    • You are obviously completely deluded if you think Fabregas and Villa are wastes of money.

      On the day you made the completely ridiculous comment, Villa had played as a substitute in 8 games for club and country since recovering from a broken leg. He scored in 4 of those 8 games, despite playing ~20-25 minutes in most of them.

      Since the euros started, Fabregas has played in 23 games (5 as a substitute). He’s scored 6 goals and made 8 assists.

      Additionally, Barca has Pedro and Sanchez playing up front, both of whom would walk into most teams in the world, and Afellay has been playing well with Schalke such that he may come back to Barca as a contender for a wide forward berth as well.

      Perhaps you’d like to actually talk about reality rather than making up random BS?

    • I’m not sure if this comment is sarcastic or just plain ignorant. You say he isn’t getting attacking support but then go on to mention Villa, Fabregas, Ibra, etc… (Sanchez as well). These players are considered world-class and were all marquee for their former title-challenging clubs – you literally cannot buy better support than this.

      He’s carrying the team? Xavi and Iniesta carry him. Without Barcelona’s possession game (or the ref’s protection), he wouldn’t be half the player he currently is. The only reason he can pull such amazing numbers (and fool ignorant viewers into thinking he’s carrying barca) is because he is the focal point of the system.

      • Basedd, I wonder when you began watching football. Before Messi broke unto the scene, where was Barcelona from 2006 to 2008? How were they surviving then? Knowing that they had the same Xavi and Iniesta keeping the ball, and even with the flair and genius of Ronaldinho, and the goal of Eto’o upfront. Your comment does not only reflect hate, but also blindness and ignorance

    • Do you really believe what you say? Barcelona is pretty much same as the team that has won the world cup and two euros. The thing is that barcelona is designed to suit Messi and get the best out of him. Look at the enormous number of tap ins he manages to get. Messi even has a say in the team management. Look at how he reacted to david villa when he tried to score a goal and failed. Messi does not enjoy anyone competing for the goals that Barcelona score. He was an important reason why Ibra was mooted out. Without Barcelona Messi wont be half as good as he is. He has the privilege of playing alongside the best midfield in the world. So stop dreaming.

  2. Nice! One. English Premier League (EPL) which is also known as Barclays Premier League. Know English Premier League Fixtures, English Premier League results, English Premier League standing, English Premier League table, etc.

    English Premier League

  3. Michael Cox…you are amazing.

    I will now construct an argument for why ronalda is better than Messi…hmmm can’t think of any actually!

    ronalda can do what MOST TOP PLAYERS already can do, just to a slightly higher and more consistent level, he is nothing anyone hasn’t seen before.

    On the other hand, no one in the history of this sport has witnessed what we are witnessing in Messi. As close to PERFECTION, as any footballer has ever gotten.

    …*cough* ronalda failed again against Russia?

    Oh, sorry what’s that?

    Messi scored a BRACE against Uruguay???

    Hmmmm….interesting =)

    • No need to make judgments like this based off one game. Ronaldo is fantastic, I can’t deny that while he doesn’t do anything we haven’t seen before, we have not seen scoring volumes like he has produced until Messi came and stole the show. Ronaldo is pretty great, and it’s strange because what is he doing that makes him score so many goals? Bizarre

      • Of all his qualities I think Ronaldo’s best attribute is his running and positioning while his teammates have the ball. He may score a lot of goals with his pattern of cutting inside onto his right foot to shoot from the area just outside and to the left of the box. But his runs through the defensive line or between players in the box are how he scores goals, it is so direct and surgical.

    • Messi failed in copa america. Arg was kicked out in the Q/F itself. Ronaldo carried portugal to the S/F of euro…………. interesting. Arg got kicked out of the W/C 4-0 by germany. Where was Messi then?????

  4. Messi is amazing but again not always himself for Argentina neither is Ronaldo for Portugal. I do agree that Messi is the best player in the world at the moment

    • Messi has been consistently Argentina’s best player on the pitch since 2010. Especially this year, he’s only under-performed in one game out of 13 played and excelled in the rest. The NT argument was always bogus (CL football standards are far superior to international football’s) but it’s finally being destroyed.

  5. thank you dude – when ronaldo doesn’t score (off of someone’s brilliant work in midfield to put a goal for him on a plate or penalty) he has absolutely no other contribution in the game besides wondering around aimlessly evading the responsibility of taking the initiative of an attack (or going to ground easily to try and win freekicks – which he drives straight into the wall afterwards then raises his hand to the ref to try and win a consolation corner kick). he is cocky but a joke – he scores goals (tap ins, penalties, one on ones and headers) because those goals are created for him in build up play (which he usually has very little input in). Messi is involved in build up play even when ends up on the end of a goal. messi takes the game to his opponents – he gets the ball, turns, looks up at his options and gets a move going. ronaldo gets the ball and passes back immediately or does 2 stepovers then passes it back to one of the defenders: if he does beat a defender he will hardly try to play a cross or decisive pass (his decision making is really poor in the final 3rd) that is why he shoots all the time even when other players are in space because if he tries anything that requires vision and execution, he subsequently gives the ball away; taking a shot is just another way of him giving possession away without making it obvious since if it works, its goal and people think he is good. his free kicks are useless, his crosses are shocking, his long balls hardly reach the intended target, his dribbling doesn’t take him anywhere and his pace on the wing can be matched by defenders who often win the ball from him while he is in full flight. the only danger he posses is off the ball since he is usually the last player to get out of an offside position after his teams attack; and because he doesn’t track back or consciously look to create goals, he saves reserves of energy throughout the game, thus still being able to sprint in the 90th minute because he has done nothing the whole game. i urge you to watch how ronaldo is hardly ever on the left wing when coantrao or marcelo are looking for assistance on the left wing against 3 defenders – ronaldo drifts someone inside where you can’t find him with a pass because when they do pass him in a congested area he gives the ball away whilst still trying to control it. his flicks are always risky and usually concede possession. What i think they should do with ronaldo is just keep him upfront like a center forward (peter crouch) and use him as a target man for flick-ons and crosses because that is where he is effective: when goals are laid out for him such that he only needs to make one touch to put the ball in the back of the net. any other thing you ask him to do besides that will lead to him giving away possession and complaining to the ref or going to ground and complaining to the ref then getting up sluggishly and strolling back lazily while his team scatters to defend a counter attack that he put them under. anybody that is a real football fan should analyse ronaldo’s game properly and then look at his individual stats against that of his teammates after the game i.e. pass accuracy, distance covered, possession won and lost etc. and you will realise that he is actually a liability because he can’t do the basics right yet he is always looking for the spectacular – then his fans hail him as the best because of his spectacular bicycle kick attempts or audacious long range shot attempts and audacious free kick attempts and spectacular flicks and stepovers that all yield very little in the end. please just analyse his game and look at his stats and you’ll see how little he actually does per game; the fact that he is on the score sheet at the end of the game is not where your analysis should end, find out who does the work of putting these goals on a plate for ronaldo (who should be actively creating goals himself since he plays “on the wing” but for most part of the game he competes with the center forward for space, crosses and through passes – making the assigned center forward redundant or forcing him to play deeper or on the left wing where ronaldo has left a gapping whole with his absence there). this usually results in the center forward having to be substituted as they get no supply from ronaldo’s side and are steamrolled by ronaldo competing with them for runs and spaces that should be theirs. if you don’t agree watch ronaldo’s play and you will see he doesn’t offer much as a winger when goals aren’t given to him.

    • so true my friend lol xabi alonso,ozil, di maria even benzema are more crucial for real madrid than ronaldo

    • Awesome post. Very analytical and dead on. I really like watching Ronaldo, he is entertaining and a great player.

      But he simply cannot compete with Messi. Messi is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, player ever and Ronaldo simply cannot be mentioned in that discussion. His goalscoring is impressive but as you pointed out, more often than not he is not the creator, he is on the recieving end.

      I would also play him upfront because that’s essentially what he’s doing now. I’m amazed Mourinho even managed to get Ronaldo to defend during el clasico (they defend with 10 or 11 players like every team does against Barca).

      One of the things that prevent me from enjoying Ronaldo as much is the sheer fact that people even compare the two. People need to use their eyes and see the difference between a guy that scores alot of goals and not much more, and a guy who participates in the build up, creates brilliant situations from his ability to beat 3-4 players (or sometimes entire teams), performs absolutely insane passes and FINISHES the move, scoring EVEN MORE goals than Ronaldo.

      The kid is literally three world class players rolled into one and they shouldn’t be compared. Messi is superior statistically and OPEN YOUR FREAKING EYES-ly.

      People also like to say that Ronaldo is more complete, which is so far from true. He might be better at heading (because of his size) and slightly better with his left foot than Messi is with his right foot, but other than that Messi trumps him in every area.

      The most glaring difference is Messis ability to dribble past 3-4 regularly and sometimes even more. Ronaldo would fall over after beating 2.

      The second most glaring difference is vision. Ronaldos vision and passing isn’t even top10 in the world. Players like Ibrahimovic, Iniesta, Silva etc etc have waaay better vision and Messi is even better than them.

      People should stop comparing them. Ronaldo is the best player in the world, and Messi is from another planet.

    • Oh my god!!! you just said what I always wanted to say without struggling with words!

  6. Holly molly Cameron…I’mma marry you <3.

    Messi – Xavi and Iniesta provided 9 assists to him last year

    ronalda – MESUT OZIL PROVIDED 18 ASSITS ALONE!!

    Hmmm…

    Cameron's bang on y'all. It's NOT EVEN CLOSE. ronalda just tries to be on the end of EVERYTHING. If ANYONE HAD THE LICENCE TO DO THAT, OF COURSE THEY'D SCORE THAT MANY GOALS WITH THAT SUPPORTING BAST.

    HE HAS ZERO CONTRIBUTION TO THE GAME OTHERWISE. HE CAN'T BEAT 2,3,4,5… PLAYERS, CAN'T WIN ONE ON ONES, CAN'T MAKE MEANINGFUL PASSES, RECEIVES PASSES LIKE AN IDIOT WITH HIS SHOULDER AND BREAKS DOWN A TEAM MOVE. I COULD GO ON ALL DAY. CHANGES HAIR STYLE HALFWAY DURING A GAME?!?!?!?! WTF.

    People have two major arguments against Messi that ronalda seems to have an upper hand in:

    1) "Messi can't score from 35+ yards because he doesn't have the power/accuracy ronalda has"

    This is the stupidest sht I've ever seen. Lets rephrase that quote, shall we??

    "ronalda can't beat anyone on the dribble and therefore can't penetrate teams to get into dangerous positions to score and therefore HAS TO SETTLE FOR LONG DISTANCE SHOTS TIME AND TIME AGAIN IN WHICH BY STATISTICAL PROBABILITY, OF COURSE!!!! ONE OR TWO ARE GONNA GO IN". JUST LOOK AT HIS SHOTS TO GOALS RATIO IN ANY/ALL COMPETITIONS!!!!!!!!!

    IT'S PATHETIC.

    2) "Messi hasn't done it in the EPL"

    …seriously?? No. Seriously??

    If players like *cough* Juan Mata, David Silva, Eden Hazard, Santi Cazorla, etc. can single handedly destroy teams in the EPL…IMAGINE WHAT MESSI WOULD DO. LIKE SERIOUSLY. HE WOULD SCORE LIKE 10 GOALS AGAINST EVERY BOTTOM HALF TEAM EVERY GAME EVERY TIME. HE'D PROBABLY SETTLE FOR HAT TRICKS AGAINST THE SO CALLED "BIG TEAMS" (THE SAME "TOP EPL TEAMS" WHO IN EUROPE BY THE WAY CANNOT HOPE/WISH TO COMPETE WITH BAYERN MUNICH, JUVENTUS, DORTMUND, BARCELONA AND madrid).

    After seeing Messi scoring YET ANOTHER FREEKICK, but this time Ronaldinho-esq. I cried a lil.

    He's simply the best.

    Raul Gonzalez has said so, Guti has said so, Figo has said so, and mourinho knows so.

    • I have issues with some of this

      1) Your Ronaldo-bashing
      Why does the conversation about how good Messi is always have to talk down Ronaldo? CR7 is absolutely world class. His blend of qualities makes him near impossible to defend against. Play a high line and he will simply use his pace to run onto balls over the back line. sit deep and he can use his strength in the air. Mark closely and he can turn you inside out before racing off, stand off him and he can hammer a forty-yard screamer. He is technically perfect. I think Messi is better, but not because Ronaldo is poor. Both are quality, and play very different roles in two very different teams.

      “Ronaldo can’t beat anyone”. WHAT?! Just you tube Ronaldo skills. He often doesn’t beat anyone because RM often play on the break, and he is absolutely amazing at holding the ball up for other players that are arriving either in the middle, or Marcelo on the overlap. To say he “tries to be on the end of everything” inplies that his decision making is poor. he knows when to lay it off and when to go for goal. Mourihno isn’t afraid of punishing talented players for poor decisions (Balotelli) as if Ronaldo is on the end of everything, its probably because that’s where JM wants him.

      I also think Messi will age better.

      2) The “TOP EPL TEAMS WHO IN EUROPE… CANNOT HOPE/WISH TO COMPETE WITH BAYERN MUNICH, JUVENTUS, DORTMUND, BARCELONA AND madrid”

      Bayern Munich lost to Chelsea in the CL final in their own stadium.
      Nicklas Bendtner plays for Juventus.
      Arsenal have given Barca a very close fixture in their last few meetings, and beat them in 2011. Arsenal also beat Dortmund last season, and Man City drew with them the other week.
      City also only lost against Madrid last month due to a last minute goal from crappy old Ronaldo…
      I’d say they are comfortably competing with the game’s elite.

      The EPL argument is valid. The answer is “of course he could adapt to the EPL”. The league is more physical and high tempo then La Liga, but he would adapt and be class. The point is that CR7 HAS proven himself in two top leagues, whilst Messi has only performed in one. That isn’t to detract from Leo, but Ronaldo winning back-to-back EPL player of the year awards is worth mentioning whilst other class players have failed to adapt (Forlan, Pique, Robinho off the top of my head).

      Your mention of Ronaldinho, lower casing of Madrid and general arguments here make me suspect you may be a Barca fan :)

      Also, the idea that he scores alot simply because he shoots alot leading to ‘STATISTICAL PROBABILITY’ is absolute madness. It just isn’t that simple, I could take shots at Casillas all day and I wouldn’t beat him once.

    • @ Drogba

      1. Easy on the CAPS there, chief.

      2. I generally concur that (a) Messi is better than Ronaldo and (b) you wouldn’t want to play with Ronaldo because he’s selfish and makes bad decisions. Nevertheless, I think you might be over-stating the case just a bit.

      3. As for randomly bashing the EPL – (a) it’s odd given your choice of screen-name is to call yourself after a famous EPL striker, (b) facts contradict your assertions regarding the inability of english teams to defeat Juve, Dortmond, Madrid, Munich etc, and (c) the contention that Messi would do better against Stoke or Wigan or West Ham than against Grenada, Osasuna, or Vallencano is absurd. Spain’s league is unbelievably financially imbalanced thanks to the completely immoral practices of Real and Barca. Until at least two of Malaga, Athletico, Sevilla and Valencia finish above Real or Barca, don’t come tlaking all that sweetness and light about the rigged Spanish league.

  7. “We’re lucky to have Messi, he’s the best player in the world”
    — Gonzalo Higuain … LMAOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    • before taking a cheap shot at HIGUAIN ,check out where he finished in goal scoring last year… then see how many minutes he played compared to the scorers in front of him… i’m not comparing him to MESSI or RONALDO but comparing him with other top strikers ,you’ll see he gives you more goals for your buck then plenty others… I would love to see him say on JUVENTUS and given starter status and see what he could do playing full minutes.

      • I think Drogba was laughing at the fact that even Higuain thinks Messi is the best in the world, considering he is club teammates with Ronaldo. It’s not a cheap shot at Higuain at all.

  8. Great great article. I’ve been thinking/saying something very similar to this since after watching him mature over the years. I truly believe that he can play the Xavi role better than Xavi, the Iniesta role better than Iniesta, the David Villa/Pedro role better than either..he’s probably so smart and physically gifted, that he actually might play the holding midfield role better than Mascherano/Busquests either..And he can def play center back as well as Mascherano..lets not even kid ourselves, he will make the best full back in the world with his speed and attacking instincts…if he wasnt so short, I’d bet my money that he’d make a competent goalkeeper in a top side as well, since its clear he’s got better reflex than any body out there on the field.

  9. Sir,

    I found this article from Zonalmarking. Thank you.

    I think this is the first time a prominent Football pundit, as big as yourself, is writing about the other qualities of Messi, than goal scoring. Recently there was even a write up in ESPN, in which the pundit argued that Messi’s goals less important, however he completely ignored Messi’s assists and his playmaking abilities.

    For more than 3 years, I have always felt that Messi is actually a mix of Messi, Iniesta and Xavi and as he gets more older he will become more Iniesta and after 30′s more of a Xavi and he will definitely be even better than these two legends. For, his speed of thought and vision is even superior to that of Xavi and Iniesta. I am middle aged person, struggling with my life like most ordinary people. But while I watch Messi, may it be for Barcelona or Argentina, I consider myselves lucky, very privilaged. Things I see this kid do, I would not have even imagined when I played.

  10. The only thing I don’t really agree with the article is that his passing has been underrated. Perhaps in English-speaking media this is so, but to people that have actually followed La Liga and Barcelona this has been the case for over a year.

  11. The author correctly speaks about Messi’s three qualities making him an exceptional footballer. There is a fourth quality, however, which is not mentioned. In 7 or 8 cases out of 10 Messi’s is where the ball goes. He has an unbelievable instinct to guess the future movement of the ball. This is why he is usually where the ball hovers around the goal. No one else has this instinct to this degree. One notices this quality looking how Messi moves without the ball.

  12. hi,ihope messi would not lose manaraht they are the enemis ofiran,asweall madshmn ,iknow these are tough mrdrvz haychyz.hatvjh barsanyazy not uryent because tV dard try tabhvsh khvdv bazy knan well as martyavbh barsa v mrby badansh triple checked all marvkhvs hhal i think i barca bc dvs tarhmyshgy shaydrvy abash dvly wish i played onc beside the victory… we salue you give to the Tya gv msy

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