Lionel Messi is a genius.
One player in modern history has run him close, but for all his endeavour, he’s not Messi.
All the superlatives in the world do the man (?) no justice. Sitting here and waxing lyrical about each astronomical achievement, taking to Twitter to impose your views on his magnificence on a post that asks what your favourite pancake topping is, or re-watching one of his goal montages for the billionth time is what some might do. That gets tiring.
What about summerising a legendary career through one particular goal? In normal circumstances that could be deemed a tiresome cop out. But there is nothing nondescript about running through Barcelona’s Greatest Goal of All Time. Well, that’s at least what the polls say, and what more can we say about Messi’s goal against Gefate in 2007? Enough to fill an ode to the little magician, at least.
Whenever Messi pulls the proverbial rabbit out of the hat – which happens every week – people will always point to another moment of individual brilliance he’s done that surpasses it. Totally acceptable behaviour given that you could’ve started watching a highlights reel and January and would still probably be only half-way through it now in July.
All of those moments to cherish deserve their own pedestal, though. Don’t compare his free kick against Liverpool to his one against Atletico Madrid. Let it sing on its own. Let his goal against Getafe have its own video on YouTube. Don’t bung it in on a lengthy compilation reel.
When you’re by the touchline in your own half with ten of the opposing team in front, you shouldn’t be allowed to score. Not even ‘allowed’, you just shouldn’t score. Full stop.
At the tender age of 19, one Argentinian was already capable of the sublime. Not Diego Maradona, I hasten to add, although what followed was frighteningly reminiscent of what the great man did on that fateful day against England.
So, let’s begin.
Receiving the ball in the aforementioned spot, the onrushing forward makes the cardinal sin of overcommitting. He tries to close Messi down with a swinging right leg, but one deft touch leaves him dug into the turf. Then, the covering forward has his try, but he too is left in Messi’s dust, only with the unwelcome accolade of being nutmegged in the process.
Despite that, he’s still got the run-in on his foe. He’d need the length of the whole pitch, mind, as there is no catching Messi at half-sprint, let alone full pelt. Having wiggled his way in front of the back four, the wall of Getafe defenders are next up. To his credit, our previous nutmegged friend continues his tracking back, but, where Messi differs from the rest, he uses this to his advantage.
He wants you to commit. Your despairing slide tackle is to his gain, not vice versa. So when he takes to the floor, a shield between Messi and the left-sided central-half emerges. Perfect.
That weighted touch just as he lunges commits a further two defenders, with the covering opponent valiantly trying his best to get the slide tackle in. Again, exactly what Messi wants. Two sprawling legs coming from opposing angles and a third well-positioned centre-half stand between him and a run at goal. Ronaldinho revolutionised the flip-flip skill, but Messi is capable of doing similar with such pace – and at any angle – that he still has time for his foot to leave the ball before the next touch.
It’s poetry in motion. Blink and you’ll miss it. Two measured touches weave him in between the despairing dives of the back line.
The goalkeeper is up next, rushing off his line but muddled up in his head about to how to react; a legitimately acceptable frame of mind after he’d just seen his teammates sat down by a 19-year-old wizard. A drop of the shoulder and shift onto his right foot leaves poor Luis Garcia joining them in the doldrums.
There is one final gallant attempt to prevent the inevitable from the final of Getafe player on the firing line, but flinging his body in front of goal was an act of hopelessness more than determination. Of course, Messi dinked it over him.
To award Xavi Hernandez with the assist for the goal feels like a crime. We all love the man to bits, but his contribution was no different to the supporters in the stands aghast with amazement.
What else is there left to be said that hasn’t already been said? Lionel Messi is Lionel Messi, and Lionel Messi will always be Lionel Messi.
Nobody else will ever – at least in our lifetimes – come close. That may come across as a rather depressing assertion. But it’s true. Enjoy it while it lasts. Be grateful you were here to witness him.
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