There appears to be a changing of guard in sport this summer. There is Novak Djokovic, who is now world number one, ahead of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal. Elsewhere, UFC 132 proved a bigger draw than the World Heavyweight bore-fest, sorry boxing showdown, between Wladimir Klitsckho and the insufferable David Haye.
The Copa America is being outshone (entertainment-wise anyway) by the Under 17 World Cup, and in Formula One, the scene is being dominated by one man, Sebastian Vettel.
While some have been a gradual progression, all have been coming to the forefront this summer, and it’s got me thinking. In the football world, has club football finally taken its rightful place at the top ahead of the international game?
Should this be the case, I thought of something radical, that would probably never happen, but could be a good idea. Lionel Messi should retire from international football.
If you are Argentine, you may well disagree, but from a Barcelona, and from a Messi standpoint, this could well be a good option.
If you have missed the start of the Copa America, allow me to fill you in. Argentina, under the tutelage of Sergio Batista are trying to emulate Barcelona’s style of play. Thing is, they play three defensive midfielders, the full-backs cannot attack and defend, and as a result, Messi drops deep, becomes ineffectual, and the team fails.
Their squad has attacking firepower to die for. Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Tevez, Di Maria, Lavezzi, Diego Milito and Pastore. Though in football, you can play 10 defenders and get away with it, but never 10 attackers. Batista has amassed a squad of players that only fall into one category, either attack or defense. As a result, they look poor, especially with Gabi Milito in the centre of defense, and drew their opening game 1-1.
I like my football, but the only guy from the current Bolivia squad I have heard of is Marcelo Moreno.
Ranked at a dizzying 93rd in the FIFA World Rankings, Messi et al could only manage a draw. Whether they will improve remains to be seen, but the goal of winning the competition appears out of reach at current.
Question is for Messi: What’s the point?
At club level, he is adored by millions. The winner of damn near every individual award ever created, and of every trophy available, at least out of the ones Barcelona compete in. He is the top scorer in the Champions League for three (!) seasons in succession, and is considered one of the all-time greats.
Internationally? Apart from that Olympic Gold in Beijing, Messi has nothing to show from his international career. The Argentine public struggle to support him, some regard him as Spanish, all because he didn’t spend a couple of years in the doldrums of the Argentine Primera Division.
Reportedly punched in the face on his return to Rosario, Messi is taken for granted by the Argentine public. To be honest, he owes them nothing, and could anyone blame him if he walked away?
It would be ridiculous to put his success down to Xavi and Iniesta, or Dani Alves. Anyone with half a brain can see that Messi makes them better too, but mainly it is down to tactics, and a telepathic understanding with his teammates. Barcelona utilise pressure, and close down the opposition within seven seconds to win the ball back. For Argentina, unless it’s Mascherano or Messi, there is a lack of pressure, intensity and understanding.
When Barcelona get the ball, the keep it with a purpose, working the opposition from side to side, probing for the smallest of gaps. When I watch Argentina, I see players keeping the ball just because. I used to see it at Manchester City, and Barcelona in the latter stages of Rijkaard’s reign.
What else do I see? Well, I see a gulf the size of the Atlantic Ocean between the defense and attack, which is filled by one man, Lionel Messi. He tries his best, receiving the ball deep, attempting to be playmaker, goal scorer and target man all at once, but ultimately the lack of support kills him.
He returns to Barcelona a bit dejected, fatigued, and his performance drops as a result. Why not prolong his club career, and wait until Argentina sort themselves out first?
Knowing Messi, he doesn’t overly care about this, and will continue to run himself into the ground to try and win over Argentina, and the World Cup in the process.
Whether it’s the correct decision is not for me to decide.
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