Does Barcelona's Lionel Messi Ever Get Too Much Credit?
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There can be no doubting his worth to the team, yet he is one cog in a machine of unbelievably talented footballers. To constantly genuflect toward the Argentine is to take away the masterful contributions of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez et al.
Perhaps it was always destined to be this way.
As far back as 2000, so desperate were the club to secure Messi's signature that Barca's Technical Secretary at the time, former player Carles Rexach, committed to a deal by writing the following on a napkin (per totalBarca):
In Barcelona, on the 14th of December of 2000 and in the presence of Josep Minguella and Horacio (Gaggioli), Carles Rexach, F.C.B technical secretary, it commits under his responsibility and despite some views against it to sign the player Lionel Messi, as long as we stick to the amounts agreed upon.
Horacio Gaggioli, who helped broker the deal for a then 13-year-old Messi remarked:
"It’s a napkin that myself and many colleagues believe has changed the history of Barcelona. If it didn’t exist, Leo would have played for another team."
A napkin that has changed the history of Barcelona. It's a preposterous comment isn't it? Yet it is a nod to what we have come to expect where Lionel Messi is concerned.
Messi has certainly improved the various facets of his game year-on-year. Anyone that is prolific enough to score almost half of his teams goals (during season 2012/13—courtesy of bsports) does deserve a bit more than a cursory acknowledgement.
Barcelona are about much more than Messi, but invariably the headlines always belong to Barca's number 10.
For example, the 2011 Champions League Final at Wembley saw a wonderful all-round Barcelona performance defeat a strong Manchester United convincingly. Indeed, Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph had Xavi as man-of-the-match, yet it was Messi that was all over the morning papers.
Messi's intervention as substitute in the Champions League tie against Paris St Germain last season did alter the complexion of the tie (per Ben Hayward, Goal.com), but it was by no means the only contribution worthy of note.
Xavi had just completed a perfect game—an incredible 96 out of 96 passes finding their target—yet even Mike Norrish of The Telegraph, who's piece was on Xavi's remarkable stats, started his first paragraph by saying: "the half-fit Lionel Messi stole the headlines after coming on the pitch to set up the decisive goal for Pedro".
Whilst elements of Messi's play might sometimes best be described as "other-worldly", are they worthy of such inexhaustible amounts of column inches and discussion?
Alima Hotakie summed it up succinctly for thescore.com:
Messi is not an underrated player in need of attention. He’s not a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. He doesn’t need the likes of his teammates reminding the world of his sublime football skills.
He doesn’t even have to prove anything to anyone because his numbers and achievements are tangibles and can stand independently.
The world already knows how great he is. It’s an established fact.
So why the need for this constant, over-the-top "love-in"?
Even non-sports media have got in on the act. "Pope meets 'God' as Messi blessed at the Vatican" screams the headline from The Week.
It's a pattern that we're unlikely to see change anytime soon, so best we sit back, relax and ready ourselves for the next installment.
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