FC Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman heaped praise on the 6-time Ballon D’or winner Lionel Messi as the most important player in the club’s entire history, as the forward celebrated a record-equalling 767th appearance for the Catalans on Monday evening.
With yet another brace, Lionel Messi dazzled fans once again in a signature display as he equaled Xavi Hernandez’s record of appearances in a 4-1 rout over La Liga counterparts Huesca.
A first touch seemingly alien-like, with the foresight to know the opponent, would commit in a certain way and to finesse and control the ball and kill it all in one touch to swerve past a dumbfounded Huesca defender, only to curl it in off the bar from outside the box with extreme precision, all of us in awe at an absolutely crazy strike that didn’t even hit the back of the net, yet somehow we are not surprised because we have become accustomed to such a standard of greatness. That goal keeps Barca in the shadows of Athletico, keeping them 5 points behind, in with a chance.
Lionel Messi: The Legacy
For the first time in 16 years, there wasn’t any sign of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Champions League, a testament to their total dominance of world football over the course of such a long period, a level never before seen in history; it’s no wonder that even with such legends having played for the Blaugrana, he is lauded as the greatest of them all. And even with his team underperforming or in peril, nothing seems to phase the great man, as he was named in the Champions League team of the week for the final time.
It takes you back to a time when a young Lionel Messi was slowly started to burst on the scene, with Ronaldinho, a Ballon d’Or winner holder himself at the time and widely regarded as the best player in the world would go on to say that this young kid would be the greatest player ever. A bold statement, that may have seemed optimistic in nature at the time yet we can now see his foresight wasn’t based on opinion alone.
What a special player, from walking the ball into the net to taking on the entire field and scoring, to 30 and 35-yard curlers, to his incredible finesse with both feet, not to mention his signature chip finish which he has mastered, to going even further with chipped free kicks and penalties, to his preposterous free-kick ability and lightning pace, which somehow hasn’t faded enough over the years for opponents to even get a sniff of him still.
Having to adapt his game isn’t even an issue with him getting older and losing touch of pace, as he is so clinical all he needs is a millisecond and an inch of space to kill you.
A complicated love story, with Barcelona taking a chance on a kid who was labeled too small to succeed, the club who gave him so much, provided him with growth hormones which he needed to take to overcome physical trials, to reaching the heights they have together. After all these years, trophies, and everything he has given to the club, it is shocking the way the public always seems to attack or criticize Lionel Messi.
Despite all his accomplishments, there will still be those critics who will throw statistics or notions like he hasn’t won an international competition into the face of an ardent Lionel Messi fan or admirer. “He is nothing without Xavi. ” an unforgettable claim, which now, in retrospect, is laughable after all his success after the departure of the great midfielder – a point which I find important to draw on, on the event of this equalling appearance record with his good friend.
This is a problem of the current generation, always compelled to draw comparison and debate, when in actuality we should just be grateful we lived in a generation where we were alive to see football’s greatest ever artist express himself on the grandest canvas, right in front of our eyes.
Thierry Henry spoke to CBS and had a few choice words when asked for his opinion. “When I see people having a go at Lionel Messi, I laugh,” Henry, who spent three years alongside Messi as a teammate, going on to win several trophies, stated. “People forget that last month he went to play in Ecuador and then he went to play in Bolivia.
You can’t even walk in Bolivia! Players coming from Europe, you’ll pass out. “People forget that we’re not machines. I understand that you need to sell stuff and you need to tell stories, but not this guy. Seriously. I played with Messi, this is not the guy you need to attack.”
“We pay to watch football because of Lionel Messi. Messi deserves to be happy. I just hope he keeps playing so my eyes can be looking at something beautiful as he warms my heart with beautiful football.”
High praise from a man so great, but then there are countless legends and figures of the highest esteem in football who echo these claims.
Lionel Messi is now up to 740 games played for Barca, with 638 goals scored across these games while collecting an astonishing 34 pieces of silverware – including a whopping 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns in total.
Another stat that often goes unheard of is that he is the top assister in football history. Yes, you read that right. You could be bombarded with statistics about him, yet nothing would ever tell you the true story of the man until you see it with your own eyes, the ability to manipulate the ball and have it stick to your feet like glue, magisterial natural ability and he only has two or three good seasons left. Will those be at Barca or perhaps elsewhere?
The answer remains to be seen, with Koeman trying his utmost to convince the star to stay next season, but whatever he chooses to do next, all eyes should remain on him for his final few seasons as we are guaranteed the highest class and quality, without a doubt. For his forthcoming final two or three seasons at the top end of world football, we should seriously endeavor to watch every last minute of his on the pitch – as we are most likely never to see another player like him again.
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