The Lead

It was, admittedly, an extraordinary moment. As I watched Celtic move closer to an improbable berth in the last 16 of the Champions League last night against Spartak, my Twitter feed was suddenly overwhelmed with news of Messi’s injury late in Barca’s game against Benfica. It was also clear this panic had little to do with the Gerd Mueller record; the frantic tweets were written with something closer to despair than disappointment.

Football without Messi. Was it worth watching? The sun rises and sets, and Messi starts for Barca. What if the sun didn’t rise tomorrow? Messi was injured, and we were all going to perish in flames.

Then, after a little while, Gary Lineker said his doctors thought it wasn’t that serious. Thankfully too, very few journalists today took the obvious route in blaming Tito Vilanova for putting him on in the last half hour. Regardless of the “meaninglessness” of the fixture, Messi is not a player normally in need of careful preservation. He doesn’t over-train, and he doesn’t run around pointlessly in order to earn that most empty of plaudits: a “good work rate.” This is largely the reason the Argentinian striker has started every game for Barcelona over the last two years. A half hour run about was not the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Still, it would be easy to accuse Messi and Vilanova of hubris, but it really is the case that players tend not to pay close attention to statistical records. When Kay Murray interviewed Kaka Tuesday night to tell him he was now the top-scoring Brazilian in the Champions League, he wasn’t even aware he was in the running. Perhaps it’s out of fear it could jinx their already superb run of form, or because it truly doesn’t matter when compared to the glory of silverware.

The prime directive for footballers is the desire to play, even if for only thirty minutes in a dead rubber.


Ferguson says a win over City on Sunday would be quite an accomplishment.

Avram Grant confirms his return to Chelsea was nothing more than a rumour.

Mikel extends contract with Chelsea until 2017.

O’Hara deactivates Twitter account over comments life was easier when he was poor.


De Rossi continues to struggle at Roma.

Stevan Jovetic not eager to leave Fiorentina.

La Liga

Messi likely to miss action this weekend due to injury.

Monchi to step down as Sevilla’s sporting director.


Robben hit with another injury.

Fortuna Dusseldorf sign Japanese midfielder Genki Omae.

Bit and Bobs

Noah Davis argues why Kaka would not benefit MLS.

AVB says eliminating Europa League a mistake.

Finalists for the African Player of the Year Award include Drobga, Yaya and Song.

Comments (10)

  1. If Mourinho had subbed in Ronaldo in the second half of an absolutely meaningless game, and he got injured to the point where he missed even a game, let alone possibly lose a chance at breaking a 40 year old record, he would get absolutely fucking grilled by press the world over.

    Pito does it, and it’s no big deal. Wanna know why? Pito doesn’t call the shots. Leo says he wants on, Leo goes on. Leo says Pedro starts over Villa, guess who plays? Messi has way more control over that team than any player in any sport ever should (except maybe basketball).

  2. I swear, RIchard must really enjoy casually trolling JMo to do it as often as he does. :)

  3. I think the reason Messi has played every game and doesnt seem to tire is because of the system Barca play. I read Fabr saying at Arsenal he was allowed to move freely on the pitch and had to track back for defence and so on. In comparison, at Barcelona everyone has a resposibility on the pitch, ie their roles defined as per their position. So Messi doesnt necessarily have to defend in the box for example for corners, hes somewhere halfway in his own half, and isnt required to track back on defence. Once because Barca pressurize the ball so the other team dont have possesion for that long and they have other midfield and defence players who win the ball often. There was a vedio link a few days ago, showing Ronaldos speed. He was in the box defending a corner, and then ran the whole field, had a shot on goal, hit the post in less than 10 sec.
    In a way messi benefits from the Barca system, in more ways than one, but it helps preserve his energy in the final third, where he explods and does his magic.

    Is football watching without Messi? That to me is an exaggeration. People raving about Messi all the time, about how good of a person he is, and all that is just too much to take and to be honest annoying. Yes hes THE best player in the world, but personaly I love ronaldo because of his personality, and I know football/soccer should be about the stuff on the pitch, but honestly if thats it, then Messi strikes me as boring!

  4. u love ronaldo because of his personality? really? u like grown men who act like little spoiled brats when they dont get there way? u sure u dont like ronaldo because of his shaved legs and hair gel? wink wink haha

    • Ohhh yes. Finally. It’s been too long since I’ve seen me a homophobic comment about that gay spoiled fuck Ronaldo and that gay leg shaving and eyebrow waxing. Cheers. Thanks for that

  5. boring? did you see how messi took the knock, recovered the ball, pivoted, took the shot before going down? that was football skill at it’s finest wrapped up in having the guts to continue on instead of hitting the deck. he was driven to try and score. If Ronaldo had been breathed on during his box to box run he would have hit the deck, rolled over up on his knees looking to the official for the red card and the free/penalty kick.

    I think that if Ronaldo showed the kind of heart that other players do there would be another person taking a run at Muller’s record instead of being 25 goals shy with a few games left.

    So the debate over who is better is moot. they are both fantastic players with incredible skill. It’s just a matter of what people see as admirable qualities and whether that means anything to the observer.

    shit, where’s that drogba guy to back me up with all-caps…. lol

  6. Hope he has a speedy recovery…The game isn’t the same without him…

    • reports are he might play this weekend but stayed with the physio’s today while the team trained on the pitch.

  7. Its the system that barca play that benefits Messi. As i mentioned he is not required to defend and track back, beacuse the system has defined that for every player on th epitch. Ronaldo and other players on other teams on the other hand are requried to be in the box, track back and defend.
    Yes Ronaldo does go down easily and many times dives as well. Who doesnt? Yes messi doesnt. But that has also to do with his low center of gravity where as Ronaldo is tall and percived as ‘strong’, and when have you seen someone trying to chop off messi legs. Never, How many times have you seen ronaldo run down the touchline and be bullied and get his legs chopped off. Hes played in the EPL. A much more physical league than the others. Ofcourse it might not be at par on skill with LaLiga forexample, but more often than not we have seen Messi not particularly do well against English opposition. Yes hes scored 2 goals against United and played well against Chelsea in the ChampsL, but do you also remm how physical Chelsea were and messi was given all the fouls. The perception is that if Messi losses the ball with a strong physical, correct challenge, it almost always goes against that player. In terms of heart, Ronaldo has a big heart. You cant compare Messi to Ronaldo in terms of heart and desire to win. Both want to win theres no question about that. But just coz Messi has scored more goals beacuse of the system he benefits in, than Ronaldo doesnt mean he has a bigger heart than Ronaldo to win. Have you seen Ronaldo play for Portugal? compare that with Messi. Is his heart bigger on the international stage then. LOL
    Both are GREAT players, but in terms of a complete football player, I like Ronaldo.

  8. And about Messi pivoting, shooting and not falling over and all that, I am sure there are many examples of Ronaldo doing the same and much more

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