Category Archives: Lionel Messi

Ujfalusi gets 2 matches for Messi tackle

Atlético Madrid defender Tomás Ujfalusi has been suspended for two matches for his clumsy tackle on Barcelona’s Lionel Messi.

To be sure, it was a terrible tackle. Ujfalusi claims it wasn’t his intention to come in so hard, but the video evidence clearly shows that he stepped on Messi’s ankle. Yeah, both players were moving at high speed, but Ujfalusi’s job is to tackle the opponent. If he wanted to, he could have done it cleaner. Instead, he sent a message. Or tried to.

Here’s the video:

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Filed under La Liga, Lionel Messi

Champion’s League Final: A study in beautiful football?

Head v. heart: who wins? Your head thinks logically, looking at the positives and negatives and comes up with a perfectly legitimate conclusion. Your heart, though, is different. It looks for something that will make it sing. Its conclusions might not be justified logically but, dammit, they just feel right. And that’s the Champion’s League Final in a nutshell: Barcelona, purveyors of beautiful football, versus Manchester United, the most efficient wrecking ball in Europe.

In the last couple of months, I’ve been reading a lot about beautiful football. The idea that Arsenal play beautiful football is absurd, though Holland had a reasonable facsimile on display in Euro 08 last summer. But, really, the only club truly devoted to beautiful football is Barcelona.

Messi v. Ronaldo

Barcelona has the midfielders and the strikers to make it work. And everything is driven by their number 10, the brilliant Argentine Lionel Messi. He brings a simultaneous joy and effortlessness to the game. Your heart wants to see him run down the side and break down 3 or 4 defenders before finally slotting it home. Or, perhaps, it wants to see him make that pass – the one he saw that nobody else could – for an easy goal by Samuel Eto’o or Thierry Henry.

Contrast that to Cristiano Ronaldo. The flopper. The fop. The no-show in big games. The man who always looks grim. Greg Lalas compared the Red Devils to an old Soviet Red Army parade: the weapons were awe-inspiring and nobody smiled. It’s a comparison that only goes so far. The old Red Army was a sham: it was built on the illusion of strength. Manchester United, though, has actual strength. It has been flexing its muscles for the last two months.

If this were a boxing match, the hype man would be shouting Ronaldo! Messi! Stadio Olimpico! The fight of this century and the next! Their individual styles are deceptively complimentary. Ronaldo is the bulldog who can show flashes of the gazelle. Messi is the gazelle who bulldogs when he has to. They are, perhaps, the two best players in the world right now.

I am a huge fan of Messi. You all know that. He’s mesmerizing. He shows up in big games. He has that sixth or seventh sense that I only remember seeing in Wayne Gretzky (and, perhaps, Mario Lemieux): the ability to see where people are going to be in a half-second. He’s a leader and Barcelona’s most influential player, despite Xavi and Iniesta and Henry, all great leaders in their own rights. Messi is the key to Barcelona’s attack and, even if he doesn’t touch the ball, he impacts how the defense reacts.

What does the Final mean, then? For Manchester United, it’s a chance to seal one of the all-time great runs in Europe and England. For Barcelona, it’s a chance to show that Beautiful Football works on, perhaps, the world’s second biggest stage.

Messi versus Ronaldo. Manchester United versus Barcelona. This could be the start of a beautiful rivalry.

Manchester United FC 3, FC Barcelona 2

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Filed under Champions League, Lionel Messi

Argentina v. Nigeria or, Messi is dominant… again

Since nobody wrote about this here at SoccerNation, I thought I’d take a few minutes and, once again, extol the greatness of Lionel Messi.

Messi dominated every aspect of the gold medal match last night. He was, of course, especially active in the attacking third of the pitch. He had several good runs and his vision menaced the rock-solid Nigerian back four all night. To their credit, the Nigerian defenders did what they could. They tried everything, from cutting off angles of attack to being physical. Unfortunately for them, Messi is not just quick on his feet, but solid on them, as well. Finally, he unleashed the beautiful pass that sprung Angel di Maria for the only goal of the game.

But that play was made by Messi’s effort throughout the match. Though he was dominant in the attacking third, he was unafraid to come back and help out his own midfielders and defenders. Granted, he didn’t go back all that often (he mostly hung around at midfield, serving as a safety valve for clearances) but he did what was necessary.

Although Riquelme was the captain, I think Messi was the most influential player for Argentina. He was consistantly great and that bodes well for Argentina in the World Cup Qualifiers as well as Barcelona in Spain and Europe. Three months ago, Cristiano Ronaldo was the unquestioned best player in the world. Now, Lionel Messi is challenging him. I’m hoping for a showdown – again – of epic proportions in the Champion’s League sometime this season.

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Filed under Lionel Messi, Olympics

Messi: an appreciation

Lionel Messi was the best thing about Barcelona this afternoon (it was afternoon in my part of the world). Every time he touched the ball, he put the Man Utd defender to the sword. The only thing that prevented him from scoring a goal was the fact that the central defenders were there to protect the wing defender. Well, that and Edwin van der Sar is 6’5″ tall. Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. van der Sar, for having such a tall son. I, for one, am deeply grateful for your genes.

But that’s not the point. The point is to appreciate the sheer artistry of Leo Messi. He moves so effortlessly with the ball, as if it’s attached to his feet with a string. His passes reflect that, too. Everything from long crosses to elegant little flick-ons are exquisite. This is, clearly, a reflection of his intelligence. The best example I can think of off the top of my head comes not from soccer, but from hockey. It’s Wayne Gretzky, who had a way about him to see what was happening and, more importantly, what was going to happen. Messi possesses that same gift.

Before I go on, check this out. No, seriously. I’ll wait.

Okay, done? Good. Wasn’t that breathtaking? The sickest part? He doesn’t turn 21 until June. The second most sickest part? He rises to the occasion in big games. Today, he was one of two players who showed up, like, really showed up, for Barcelona (the other was Zambrotta, who put the clamps down on CRonaldo for most of the match). Messi was thriving. This is a good sign for Barcelona. And it most assuredly puts the kibosh on that stupid transfer idea of Ibrahimovic for Messi, straight up.

He has the skills to be one of the greats of the game already. Playing five more years at his current level will assure him of all-time great status. But he’ll play more than that because he’s improving every year. I’m not one for hyperbole but I think Messi has lived up to his hype and will continue to live up to his hype. I look forward to watching him for years to come.

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Filed under Champions League, Lionel Messi