Lionel Messi has scored 86 goals so far this year. Have you heard? Have you watched the Youtube videos? Have you unsuccessfully baked a sponge cake with his face on it in homage to him only for it to come out looking like a swollen Jack Nicholson in The Shining, half axe murderer, half miscellaneous poison block you end up giving to your brother under false pretenses? Everyone has—there isn’t much good on TV at the moment—but it doesn’t change anything, the fact remains that Messi hasn’t ‘taken’ Gerd Mueller’s record for the most goals in a calendar year, he’s stolen it. Mueller deserved the record—Messi simply does not.
At first glance Messi looks to be beyond reproach. He’s the greatest player of all time, a joy to watch, and his personality isn’t at all abrasive. He’s even overcome the adversity of being really, really small as a kid. He ticks all the boxes. I’ll even admit that at second glance you get the same impression. Also at third. And, yes, at 468th too, if you’re prepared to dedicate your weekend to trying to expose this bastard as a bastard, as I was (hence the lateness of this column and, overblown lawsuit still ongoing, my latest restraining order). But let me tell you something: once it gets late enough at night you realize that being that far beyond reproach is itself worthy of reproach. Bam. Right there. That’s where it is. Like the critically-acclaimed (I criticise, therefore I am a critic) second season of The OC, he’s just too perfect.
Now, in terms of creating a coherent, objective argument against Lionel, this angle might be difficult to justify—if someone achieves perfection based on criteria you yourself have set out for them, criticizing them for that achievement after the event seems nonsensical at best. Luckily, within the terms of a petty, contrived argument it fits nicely, so I win and will continue.
Aside from being fundamentally worthy of reproach for being beyond reproach, there’s the obvious, ugly-looking dent in his latest goal-scoring record. Eighty-six goals this year: great, but couldn’t those goals have been given to people who need them more than he does? Who’s thinking about The Children in all this? Eighty-six goals and he didn’t donate a single one to charity. Sure, he’s probably dedicated goals to good causes, but charity is about sacrifice. No, it is. Dirk Kuyt, famous for his charity work, actually gave up all of his talent to needy kids, leaving him a husk of a footballer, barely able to kick a ball—has Messi even offered? Give some goals to the kids, Lionel, then maybe we’ll be able to take this whole ‘nice guy’ façade more seriously.
How much more of what we know about Messi is based on a lie? The beard, for one. Pencilled on every morning, Messi isn’t kidding anyone. I don’t like criticizing anyone for the way they look, so that’s not what I’m doing here, it’s the duplicity which I can’t stand. If you can’t grow a beard which doesn’t come out looking like overused Velcro, that’s fine, but don’t draw one on. It’s pathetic and deceiving. And what’s more, it’s a symbol of Messi the Liar which we now have to superimpose onto the rest of his life. If he’s drawing on the beard, logically he’s probably also distributing Class A drugs to kids. If he’s doing neither, then I suppose I can expect another letter from his lawyers.
Lies and not giving away goals. Now we’re getting there. Still a way to go though. On Sunday, as he thieved Mueller’s record without a hint of remorse, Messi plunged a second knife into his back, suggesting with extreme and, knowing this arsehole, probably genuine humility that the two goals he’d just scored to take him to the record were very nice, but that, of course, the win for his team was the most important thing. This is a player who thinks he’s too good to be arrogant about how good he is—it’s a pure form of arrogance if, again, you think about it for long enough. It’s arrogance from the Matt Damon School: he’s so full of himself that he thinks he can afford to act like a nice, genuine guy instead of a boastful narcissist like everyone else. Stunning arrogance.
More arrogance? An anecdote I haven’t heard about Messi but that I assume to be true is that he once told Pep Guardiola that he was a prepared to play in any position for him—the obvious implication being that he thinks he’s better than any other player on the pitch in any position. After that, you can see why David Villa supposedly hates him. It’s not the sleep-addled paranoia of an inferior player, it’s the truth: Messi thinks he can play in everyone else’s positions and has plans to do so. Is he sexually excited by the idea of forcing unemployment onto all of his teammates? I think we all know the answer to that, only for legal reasons I can’t say here.
This isn’t someone who deserves another record. Messi’s a secret narcissist, a pencil-bearded fraud and he may well but (for legal reasons) DEFINITELY DOESN’T sell drugs to The Children. It may be contrary to any and all empirical evidence, but these were all reasons why this new record was stolen, not earned. “Eighty-six goals” indeed, Mr Lionel.
And they said my dissertation thesis was spurious.
A note on violence at football grounds
With Messi successfully dethroned, I feel on good enough form to tackle an even bigger issue. Sunday’s City-United game took in some crowd trouble. Nine people have been arrested in the aftermath and, in addition to having to escape a Manchester City fan running onto the pitch to try and attack him, Rio Ferdinand was also hit in the face with a coin thrown from the stands. Incidents like these are difficult to respond to: beyond the absolute nutters who are easy to dismiss, saying that the odd flash of trouble in the stands is the worst thing in the world risks falling into the ‘let’s sanitize football’ camp, whilst arguing that maybe the trouble in the stands added to the drama has you on the side of some people you might not want to spend long talking to in a pub.
As such, I’ll dodge the issue entirely and point out that on the replay of Ferdinand being hit, for a moment, it did look like he’d just poked himself in the eye by mistake as he went to lift his shirt up over his head. The hilarious illusion was only ruined when you saw the blood pouring out of his face, because even Rio Ferdinand wouldn’t bludgeon his own eye until it bled. You’d think. Did he? Did he? Maybe he did?
It certainly would have made life a lot easier for all of us if he had just hit himself in the face, but obviously Rio Ferdinand is too selfish to have retrospectively effected that in the event of the coin assault.