I was lucky enough to catch a replay of the Barcelona-Real Betis match today and as a spectacle it had everything a football fan would want. The 3-2 scoreline was evidence alone that this was a great match with special performances from several players.
On watching the match though it was again clear that one player on the pitch had that special something that others just do not possess.
Lionel Messi is a different class of footballer than the world has gotten used to seeing in the last few years. But something else was noticeable today that many of the stars of the world game do not show: Good old fashioned grit.
At one moment in the match something happened that was amazing to see, near the end as it turns out, after Messi had bamboozled the Betis players with his pace and trickery for almost the full 90 minutes.
Messi received the ball and moved toward the Betis goal with several players giving chase. What happened next was absolutely one of the bizarre attempts at stopping a player I have ever seen.
It involved three different opposition players and two of them were guilty of cynical fouls on the little Argentinian master.
I will not mention the names of the opposition players who resorted to these tactics because I do not think they deserve to be mentioned because of the cynical nature of their tactics.
How it transpired though was the astonishing part.
Messi dribbled the ball as he had done throughout the match, at pace and without giving the opposition a chance to take it from him. The first foul was the worst and also utterly ridiculous, as a Betis defender launched himself from behind into a tackle that struck Messi in the side of his waist! Messi carried on.
As he continued he was grabbed by a different opposition player who tried to pull him down from behind, Messi calmly shrugged him off stepped to the right and then moved back across the face of the Betis area only to be tripped in a stupid challenge by the same player who had just finished grappling him.
The infringer was duly booked and Barcelona awarded a free kick.
Messi picked himself up off the ground and got ready for the free-kick, straight away.
Messi had once again demonstrated his class and why he is considered to be "The New Maradona."
The most brilliant thing of all admidst all of the Argentinian's great play and wonderful dribbling was his refusal to fall when he was hit with all of these fouls. It is a rare thing these days to see it. When you do see it you are amazed.
Any number of other stars of the world game crumple to the floor at the merest hint of contact. Writhing on the ground in apparent agony as they cover their faces and their contorted features.
The strength and special qualities that he possesses were clearly evident when he did not fall in these fouls and after the whistle went he calmly stood up and got ready for the free-kick. No theatrics and no nonsense.
He is truly a great example to the younger generation with his refusal to engage in the play acting that has polluted the game now. Add to this his phenomenal abilities and his great attitude and you have someone that one day that will not be called "The New Maradona," instead he will be called simply "Lionel Messi—Genius."