A few days ago I was stunned by yet another scintillating performance by the player now widely accepted as the best in the world. Of all the adjectives and compliments dished to Leo Messi, one stood out. “He is a playstation player.”
Said Arsene Wenger after his 4-1 defeat, this was not to dismiss Messi but to state the truth.
Every player is a product of the football they play as a child; Pele played ghetto street football, Maradona the same, and many others.
Indoor soccer called futsal in Brazil gave us Ronaldo, not the Portuguese imposter but the real one.
Leo Messi spent most of his childhood sick and getting hormone treatment to merely survive, he spent most of his time on playstation plotting his future career.
No player has had greatness heaped upon him from such an early age.
Ronaldinho was asked “what is it like to be the best player in the world?” He answered “I am not even the best at Barca.” He was referring to a young Messi at the time, Barca were happy to see him leave for Milan because they had the real deal.
When I was a child every player wanted to be Maradona, maybe Pele was still remembered but Diego was the man.
Today you have 50 cameras at a game to show you every flick and touch in high-def slow-motion.
If Diego was playing today then how good would he look? Even Pele looks amazing in black and white or the Technicolor of 1970.
No doubt Messi is the best in the world, if he can keep his head then he will eclipse his hero – Diego. Now they will be looking for other Messi-like players.
Players with a low centre of gravity, close control, 360 degree agility, deftness of touch, super-speed and instinctive decision making.
That is where the playstation training comes in, he randomly eliminates options in a non-logical way.
If he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next, then how will you even start to guess? The consensus is that he is unplayable, even unstoppable but no man is.
Right now football tacticians are all looking for the formula to stop Messi, right now we are too in awe of his skills to sit down and work out a game plan.
There is a way to stop him but it needs the type of player that is rare these days. A smaller man-marker like Nelson Vivas would do it.
If you mark him zonal then he will skip through, if you mark him man to man then he beats you for pace and skill, if you double team him it opens up other skilful players like Iniesta, Xavi etc.
Within a year the formula to stop him will be found, it would be to have one small, agile marker and the rest blocking space for him to run into. Till then we will sit and enjoy what is now surely “The Messi show.”