Tag Archives: Barcelona Messi

Imperium Barcelona

10 Mar

They are the imperial power of world soccer, from a Spanish region of rebels and independents, an elite and the deepest example of soccer dominance in years – here is a possession stat from their most recent Champions League fixture: roughly 70% Barcelona 30% Arsenal – this is more impressive than the Roman Empire’s field control at its peak. The little legionnaires – Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Villa – have subjugated to their will that most elusive of radicals, the soccer ball. It is a servant to their fancies. Barcelona’s opponents seem like sad slaves chasing a dream, demoralized, wondering if the Barca Empire will ever fall. You can’t beat Barca by playing soccer. General Jose Mourhino, when he was in charge of the Inter Milan legion last year, managed to find victory against the Catalans by not playing soccer. He brought a wall of eleven defenders to Barca’s fort at the Nou Camp in the semi-final of the Champions League and withstood the siege. It is the only way. The ancient Italian principle of catenaccio – the bolt on the door – is the last hope of the subjugated.


How Do You Stop A Player Like Messi?

30 Mar

In the old days, when the tackle from behind was legal, and defenders were given respect not for their play but out of fear, the golden boys of soccer were afraid to turn their backs on goal. Lurking behind them like blood thirsty sharks were tough nuts like Spain’s Andoni Goikoetxea, the Butcher of Bilbao, his nom de guerre, or the inappropriately named Claudio Gentile, an Italian on a mission to stop anything that moved.

In 1966, Brazil was knocked out of the World Cup Finals because Pele was booted off the park.  In the 1990 Finals, thanks to Gentile, Maradona was scythed at every turn ending Argentina’s hopes of a repeat triumph. Diego also had his ankle broken by The Butcher of Bilbao when he played for Barcelona. It remains one of the worst tackles in history. Goikoetxea kept the Argentine’s shredded boot as a souvenir putting it on top of his television set.

Mercifully, those days are over. The age of the clobbering boot has been replaced by the lightness of foot. Today, Messi of Barcelona leads the dance. So how do you stop a player like Messi? Can you?

Gentile was known to stick to his man like a bottom stuck to a toilet seat with superglue on April Fools Day. But coaches have abandoned the man-to-man marking in favor of zones and space. Little fleas like Messi thrive in this kind of environment. Short of throwing itching powder on the genius, there seems to be no answer. Getting rid of him by employing a Materazzi-style insult against his mama won’t work. Lionel is no street fighter. These days, soccer players don’t have to be.

So we can all sit back and enjoy the diminutive wizard mixing his magic, maybe even see him win the World Cup for his hero and coach, Diego Maradona. The old man of Argentina can relax in the knowledge that his protégé plays in a game well past the age of the psycho butcher.

If you fancy it, check out my guide to the World Cup Finals, click below