Thursday, January 16, 2014

How Magisterial Is Messi?

I watch soccer pretty infrequently now*, but I know the game pretty well. I played throughout my childhood and high school, and I still join a league every now and then. Oh, and I played a ton of FIFA in college.**

*If you add up all the bits and pieces of games I watch, it would probably tally about one full match per month.

**Just unhealthy amounts. One time we had been playing for hours, and my buddy Keating attempted to ask our roommate Mike for a beverage. "Yo, FIFA, pass me a beer," Keating commanded. Like I said, unhealthy.

The reason I always loved playing soccer was the amount of teamwork it usually took to mount just one scoring chance. When a teammate or I scored a goal, it was that much sweeter because you got to share it with your buddies. I always think back to the deafening roar I heard as we all converged on a teammate who had scored a game-winner in high school. There was nothing like it.

If you watch the Spanish national team, with its wonderful tiki-taka style, you get an idea of the beauty of "the build-up."


Tiki-taka requires short passing, possession, patience, and precision.* I think it's what people have in mind when they use the term "beautiful game."

*The Four P's! Can I patent that or something? 

... Then there's Lionel Messi.

In his return from a leg injury that had sidelined him since early November, Messi did this. (I linked to the Deadspin post because I couldn't find the video anywhere else. Trust me, click the damn link.)

You're not. Supposed. To be able. To do that.

Messi's played the last nine years for Barcelona, collecting four World Player of the Year Awards in the process. He's familiar with tiki-taka. He's supposed to know that he has world-class teammates, and he should play off of their terrific skills.

It seems like No. 10 just can't help himself sometimes. As always, announcer Ray Hudson had it right: "Magisterial! ... He dances past the defenders, emasculating each of them again."

I guess that if you want to be kind, Messi's short, precise passes to himself are almost as nice as tiki-taka. So even though he sometimes neglects his teammates, we should probably allow him to continue participating in the beautiful game.

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