Sometimes it feels like Lionel Messi isn’t a footballer, rather somebody who lived a long time ago and is still discussed and debated today.
The sideshow becomes the scene.
It’s all about those who say he’s lost it.
The ones who still believe.
Some put their faith in another.
And then, cutting through the noise, Messi rises again.
His strike against the Basque club in their 1-1 draw helped Barca qualify for the final of that tournament, finished off by the Argentine amid a cloud of Sociedad defenders.
It meant he has now netted 335 goals for Barcelona, level with Athletic Bilbao legend Telmo Zarra.
Now no player has scored more for a single club in Spain.
Presse Sports-USA TODAY Sports
Messi is closing in on the overall La Liga goalscoring record too. He has 226 strikes to his name in that competition.
Zarra has 25 more than him, but you expect him to beat that before 2014 is out.
Real Madrid legends Alfredo di Stefano and Raul are one and two goals ahead of Messi, and it’s easy to see those records being toppled before the month is out.
And yet it was only a week ago that former Barcelona assistant coach Angel Cappa was claiming that the 26-year-old had lost his passion for football.
He told La Xarxa, as reported by Goal:
To play football you need boundless passion, like Messi had, like the great players like [Diego] Maradona ... any important player in the Primera Division: Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets. You need enormous passion, you need that energy that comes from an absolute love of the game. ... The day they played Valencia, I couldn’t understand how a player could play football so dispassionately.
Seeing those pictures of Messi’s wild celebrations in the driving Sevilla rain, are you telling me that’s a man who doesn’t care any more?
Cappa backtracked afterwards. He told Radio Metro Buenos Aires, as reported here by Sport, “It seems Messi responded to me. If what I said served to motivate him, I’ll say it every week.”
Former Barcelona defender Gabi Milito rushed to Messi's defence, telling La Xarxa, as reported by Football Espana:
Everyone is free to say what they see and feel, but I think it is impossible Leo has lost his passion for football. He’s a fan of the sport and passionate about what he does. He has a spirit that can overcome. Cappa’s opinion should be respected, but I know Leo, how he thinks and acts. He’s very competitive, and you need to have that passion for the game.
But it just seems that anybody and everybody who fancies a bit of attention will use Messi to get back into the spotlight.
They kick him when he’s down, pour earth on top of him and try to bury him alive.
But like in all those horror films, Messi’s fist always rises through the soil at the end.
Some believe that Messi is preserving himself for the World Cup, dropping back into a deeper role to avoid rough tackles.
But Albert Masnou wrote in Sport Qatar—a print-only newspaper (sister to Catalan publication Sport) of which he is the editor—that this is not the case.
He explained how Messi has a free role within the side and has to come deeper to get the ball if things aren’t going well for the Blaugrana.
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Barcelona manager Tata Martino summed the situation up nicely, explaining in a press conference after the Sevilla match, here reported by the BBC, how the Argentine uses criticism as fuel.
He explained, "Those that are negative do not realise they are affecting his pride. When you do that to the best player in the world, this is what happens."
Perhaps in the next few days there may be others who rise from obscurity to stick their heads above the parapet and have a pop at Messi.
And he will stay silent until Barcelona take on Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, when he will do the talking with his feet.