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Messi emerges from Maradona's shadow

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Tim Vickery | 07:00 UK time, Sunday, 29 March 2009

Diego Maradona's first competitive match in charge of Argentina was also the first time that Lionel Messi was handed his old number 10 shirt.

The numbering confirmed suspicions that with Juan Roman Riquelme retiring from international football, Messi is taking on more responsibility. He becomes the team's attacking general - like a latter day Maradona.

The dribble Messi produced at the very end of the 4-0 win over Venezuela was worthy of Maradona himself. It ended with a poke that was inches wide. After the game Maradona said that had the ball gone the other side of the post then the crowd would have been obliged to leave and pay to get in again.

Messi's was a Man of the Match performance. He cut Venezuela apart with incisive dribbles and beautifully slipped passes. And if he was bold in his acceptance of the number 10 challenge, so was Maradona in the team he selected for this special occasion.

Lionel Messi excelled against Venezuela wearing the coveted number 10 shirt

In his two warm-up friendlies (beating Scotland 1-0 and France 2-0) Maradona played a back four with Martin Demichelis as his defensive lynchpin. But the Bayern Munich centre back was suspended for this game - and Maradona changed not only the personnel, he also switched the system.

Against Venezuela he went with a back three. In the middle, making his first start for his country, was Marcos Angeleri of Estudiantes, who has made a name for himself recently bursting forward from right back - the position where he made his Argentine debut last month, coming on for the last 10 minutes against France.

Now, though, he was played in his original position as a libero, where his pace is useful in snuffing out danger. On his right in the back line was the veteran Javier Zanetti, who has played almost his entire international career as a rampaging right back. And on his left was Gabriel Heinze, hardly the most popular player among the Argentine footballing public.

True, the opponents may not have been the strongest, but Venezuela have made huge strides over the last decade. In recent World Cup qualification campaigns they have beaten everyone in the continent bar Brazil and Argentina - and beat Brazil in a friendly last year.

In the 2006 qualifiers they won 3-0 away to Uruguay (where Brazil have never won a competitive game) and they beat Ecuador in this campaign. There is little doubt, then, that Maradona was taking a chance with his unorthodox back three.

Two names convinced him that the risk was worth taking - Mascherano and Gago.
This was the first time since last June's 0-0 draw away to Brazil that the pair of them were able to line up together in World Cup qualification. In the subsequent four rounds one or the other was either injured or suspended, and the team was without one of the most promising central midfield partnerships in international football.

Had the pair been available it is highly likely that Maradona would not be coach of Argentina. Results would probably have been better, and the pressure that forced his predecessor Alfio Basile to resign may not have been so intense.

Maradona has been lucky enough to have the Liverpool man (ex River Plate) and the Real Madrid midfielder (formerly of Boca Juniors) together in all three of his matches so far. He was quick to appreciate the value of their partnership. They complement each other so well - Mascherano to sit and Gago to knit, one to win the ball and the other to play it crisply to the strikers.

Against Venezuela the first half belonged to Mascherano, reading the game well, snapping his tackles in and dominating the space. And the second was Gago's - swinging the ball wide, his passes helped unlock the defence for two of the goals.

As Maradona has recognised, the Mascherano-Gago partnership provided balance to his side. With them in place he could go with his experimental back three - and also he could, for the first time, play Messi, Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez in the same starting line up.

The tiny strike trio all made one and scored one - especially good news for Tevez, who had not scored in the campaign. Maradona felt vindicated in his selection, especially since some have been calling for the inclusion of a target man striker, and questioning the absence of Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain.

It is unlikely, though, that he will be able to field all three of them all the time - which presumably leaves Tevez on the bench. Someone - either a striker or one of the wide midfielders - has to drop out if he goes with a back four.

It is also worth noting that, despite winning 4-0, Argentina created little in the first half - I can recall Messi's goal and two other moments of danger. There are times when the variety of a back-to-goal striker would be useful, and may help bring the best out of Aguero (for if Messi brings back memories of Maradona, Aguero is the closest thing to Romario I have seen).

Then there is Juan Sebastian Veron. Now back with Estudiantes, he came on for the last 20 minutes. He was booed by some, cheered by others - since the 2002 World Cup flop he has divided opinions. Physically he may have lost something but the intelligence is all there. Admittedly by the time he came on for Tevez the game was won and space was easier to find, but Argentina's play flowed nicely while he was on. He immediately struck up a good partnership with Messi and his presence gave Gago more freedom to lope forward.

There are options, then, for Maradona to chew over. Wednesday away to Bolivia will teach us little. The extreme altitude of La Paz makes the game a one off. But the two rounds in June (home to Colombia and away to Ecuador) and September (home to Brazil and away to Paraguay) will shine a more searching light on the strengths and weaknesses of Diego Maradona's Argentina.

Comments on this piece in the space provided. Other questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag:

Q) The Guardian's Sid Lowe recently made the case for Daniel Alves being the second best player in the world, yet he's not even considered the best right back in the Brazilian national team by Dunga.
I know Maicon is a fantastic player too, but better than Daniel Alves? Is that the consensus in Brazilian footballing circles?
Joseph Sexton

A) I've been a Daniel Alves fan for longer than most - he's been in my notebook since I saw him for Bahia in 2002, and at the start of 2003 I picked him out in World Soccer magazine as one of the stars of the South American Under-20 Championships.
But, as Dunga says, 'the truth is out there on the pitch' and (Editor's note: Tim wrote this this before Sunday's 1-1 draw with Ecuador) there's no doubt that Maicon's performances for Brazil have been better.
Strange - the only time Daniel Alves has looked really at home in the national team is when he came on as an early sub in the 2007 Copa America final and played on the right of midfield.
Now, I've got my criticisms of Dunga, but I can't go along with the view that his preference for Maicon is a defensive option. That's not what Maicon is about, or what he does best. He steams forward with extraordinary power. Towards the end of last year Portugal forgot to mark him after half time and he took the game away from them in a matter of minutes.
Perhaps an advantage Daniel Alves has is his free kicks - especially if the physical decline of Ronaldinho stops him being picked - I believe Ronaldinho will only start against Ecuador because Kaka is injured. But so far anyway, Maicon is first choice on merit.

Q) I was interested in your thoughts on Fredy Montero. He is with the Seattle Sounders right now and he is Colombian I believe. Do you have any information on him? I watched the opening match and he was fantastic, clearly one of the most skilled players in MLS. Do you think he has the potential to move to Europe?
Peter Udstuen

A) He caught my eye with Deportivo Cali and I like him a lot - skill, intelligence, vision and goals - an excellent combination. I thought Colombia treated him harshly last year - brought him into the national team for the World Cup qualifier against Paraguay, gave him a big build up and then hauled him off soon after half time and dropped him from the squad - a strange way to develop players.
To be honest, I was a bit disappointed when he went to the MLS - though his option does show how well the league has established itself. There was interest from Europe - and perhaps a club in Argentina would have been a good choice, since a number of top class Colombians have developed there.
So yes, I do think he has it in him to play in Europe. His compatriot Toja has made the switch form the MLS to Europe, so perhaps Montero can do it as well.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Tim, Excellent as always, in your opinion which of the South American teams is most likely to have a chance of winning the Word cup next year as they currently stand, Argentina seem to have done well since Maradona took over, but can he keep it up ?

  • Comment number 2.

    imo, that formation wont work against stronger international teams - gago can be isolated and picked off, and mascherano attacking threat is limited at best. simply too much space in the midfield and a narrow defence can control that front three. but, of course, messi being there is somewhat of an upperhand for argentina against...well...every team in the world.

    truely a scary prospect for any defence, the boy. with tevez and aguero drawing attackers, if this is the formation they use, it could break games.
    id put them as second favorites for the world cup. spain first.

    Tim, how are paraguay leading the south american group so convincingly?

  • Comment number 3.

    well done el Diego...long that it may continue

  • Comment number 4.

    Tim,

    I know you are a big advocate of Gago, especially with his partnership with Mascherano but I feel he lacks immediacy on the ball and sometimes postitional awareness. I've seen him get better along with Higuian for Real Madrid but when Real have played away from home and he's more pressured on the ball he tends to lose his battles - what are your views on that?

    I remember seeing Messi coming off the bench to join Ronaldinho et al in his early days - I felt it at the time that there was something special but he's on a level now which I thought I'd only read and here about, hopefully he'll get the Champions League and World Cups he deserves in his career.

    http://www.worldfootballcolumns.com

  • Comment number 5.

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Tim,

    Another excellent read. Seems like Diego has got Argentina finally flowing in the right direction.
    It was good to read that Veron got the chance to guest appear too. However, I think he is getting to that veteran stage where he will be used sparingly in the national set-up.
    Wednesday will be interesting, who knows, even a shock on the cards and a win in Bolivia?

    Keep up the good work,
    MOP13
    www.manonplatform13.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 7.

    Tim an excellent analysis as I must say I was surprised by the team Maradona put out. Can I ask what you thought of Brazil personally I am bemused by Dunga's selections although on the Maicon issue I think he is generally right. Gilberto Silva, a half fit Ronaldinho( half fit cos he does not train well), Felipe Melo none were good enough and his continung treatment of Pato is a disgrace. Baptista has hardly played that much at Roma and only when Totti and Vucinic have been injured, whereas Pato has by common account been the best thing about Milan this season scoring 14 Goals when played mainly up front alone. Do the Brazillian public honestly beleive that Dunga is the man to take them forward? When he continually refuses to pick the best team regardless of who they are or where they play. One more thing I give Maradonna great credit for picking Angeleri despite him playing still in Argentina oh that Dunga would play Hernanes but he will not until Hernanes moves abroad. If as speculation has it he moves to Barcelona and plays well only then will Dunga pick him.

  • Comment number 8.

    'And on his left was Gabriel Heinze, hardly the most popular player among the Argentine footballing public'

    The Argentines don't like him? Why? I haven't heard this before, can someone expand on this?

  • Comment number 9.

    Tim, I'm sure this is a standard comment to make but your blog is easily my favourite on this site, absolutely superb. The highlight of my monday at work for sure!

    I saw most of the 2nd half of the Argentina match, and thought the trio Tevez, Aguero and Messi was superb. I also thought that Di Maria's cameo was interesting; I remember seeing him at the Youth World Cup in 2007 (Under 20's I think) and being very impressed, and I was again last night! If anything he seems quicker now and always wanted the ball and always wanted to take people on.

    I have a couple of questions, if you'd be so kind!
    1. I'm going to be in Rio for most of August, and really want to get to see a game at the Maracana. I'm not really too worried about safety as my girlfriend is half-Brasilian and has lots of family in Rio, but I was wondering when I'd be able to find out what games Flamengo had in August? From looking at the fixtures it looks like they will play Corinthians at home about half-way through the season... Would this fall in August?
    2. I'd like to echo a previous question about Brasil's selection last night; I was disappointed to see an out-of-form Robinho picked ahead of Pato. Felipe Melo bossed things Italy and deserved to be picked again. However I don't see Gilberto Silva as the best partner for him in midfield; looking at the long term will he be a viable option in South Africa? Tim, what do you think Brasil's ideal central midfield partnership would be? I'd love to see Anderson or Hernanes given a good run in the middle...

    Thanks again Tim for your brilliant blog!

  • Comment number 10.

    Hi Tim.

    Just wondering if any of the weaker South American countries have a young Messi in the making? Someone in the next 2 or 3 years that can change the fortunes of a Peru or Bolivia?

    Messi is a genuis thats all I can say.. ok the opposition (Venezuala)weren't the best but still he can change a game at the flick of a coin.. wrap the guy in cotton wool until 2010..
    Without doubt the best player in the World right now..

  • Comment number 11.

    Saw the game. Argentina won at a walk. Messi played well but not exceptionally so. Same with Tevez.

    I dont know what it was but overall they didn't look at all threatening. (Even though they won 4 - 0).

    Not a shadow of the same team that played with such flair and presence as in 2006.

    Hopefully they will tighten up and develop more of that "je ne sais quoi" over the next few games under the Big Man.




  • Comment number 12.

    We can all see that Ronaldinho is not as fit as he could be, i was just wondering if anyone could shed any light as to why the famed coaching structure at AC Milan has not gotten him into shape?
    The same coaching system that has helped the likes of Maldini Sedorf and Cafu extend their illustrious careers and has Beckham by his own admission in the best shape he has been in for a long time.

  • Comment number 13.

    A shame that an HONEST Argentinian couldn't deliver the final touch....

    I suppose 1986 showed that a left-handed little runt silently begged forgiveness before God and was told to show the world that instead of being a shameless little cheat, that he was the finest dribbler of a football in the history of World football.....

    From the 'World Cup according to Terry Butcher', to be published by Harper Collins in 2010, I believe........

  • Comment number 14.

    Regarding Argentina I'm not sure that a Mascherano and Gago partnership is really essential to their success. Masch is obviously a key player but Gago always fails to impress me, he is fairly limited and there are surely better options for Argentina. I thought Argentina were superb by the way, Maradona seems to have put some life into them and at times they seemed to be playing with no defenders, Seba Veron was magnificent when he came on and played some quite brilliant one touch football.

    I also watched the Brazil game and what a contrast there was. I have never seen a Brazil team so devoid of talent, the manager is bad but even a good one would struggle to get this team to play well. The team selection is certainly questionable but it fairly clear that it isn't working. Brazil were not just shaded by Ecuador but comprehensively outplayed, I'm not exaggerating when I say it could have finished 5-0. Fortunately for Dunga and Brazil Ecudor decided to field the worst international striker I've ever seen in Christian Benitez and the Beast fluked an own goal off the keepers head and it was 1-1. But the point still stands, where exactly is the ability in this team, Alves, the left back, Gilberto Silva, Luis Fabiano, Ronaldinho (at the moment), Luisao - these players would not have been in the squad of previous Brazilian teams let alone starting in World Cup qualifiers.

  • Comment number 15.

    A shame that an HONEST Argentinian couldn't deliver the final touch....

    I suppose 1986 showed that a left-handed little runt silently begged forgiveness before God and was told to show the world that instead of being a shameless little cheat, that he was the finest dribbler of a football in the history of World football.....

    From the 'World Cup according to Terry Butcher', to be published by Harper Collins in 2010, I believe........

    ---------------
    Terry Butcher is one of the desperate old breed of hypocritical English defenders who regard a forearm smash or sly elbow to the face as fair game but cry to the referee when the constantly fouled players with skill retaliate in their own way.

  • Comment number 16.

    Best player in the world, no arguement

  • Comment number 17.

    Tim, great blog as usual. Regarding Messi, having only watched clips of a couple of games he has played in, what weaknesses does he have, if any?

    I think he is the best player in the world by a long way (Man U and Ronaldo fan here) because one big difference is that Messi seems to consistently make a difference game by game. I could easily see him at this level, win the World Player of the Year over the next 3-4 years.

    Looking at Ronaldo and Kaka having watched Man U and Milan quite a bit this season, they perform to Messi's level (barring Ronaldo's last season) on occasions, but no where near as consistently.

  • Comment number 18.

    Sorry, when I mentioned Messi could win World Player of the Year over the next 3-4 years, I mean winning it consecutively over the next 3-4 years.

  • Comment number 19.

    Messi plays like this all the time and is scoring many goals and making many assists, he also has the ability to take the ball past more than 2 players and the ball seems as if it is glued to his feet, anyone who watches him more than 5 games a season would say he is the best, EPL fans are the hardest to please it seems, maybe cant accept he doesnt want to play in the league

  • Comment number 20.

    ERR junglemanchild who on this blog has denied that messi is the best player in the world at the moment

  • Comment number 21.


    Daniel Alves has his chance now, with Maicon's injury - he struggled when he came on early ysterday, Ecuador's attacking left back Ayovi got the best of him on a few occasions - but as people here have stated, the whole Brazil team struggled.

    Perhaps it's a bit harsh to judge Brazil on this match - they absolutely hate playing at altitude - and made it hard for themslves with the selection of Ronaldinho, who was effectively a passenger - as soon as Julio Baptista cme on for him, they had a player capable of getting up into the box in support of Luis Fabiano, and it got them a goal.

    Not a game for Gilberto Silva either - you need to keep possession at altitude, do as little running as possible, so you're beter off with a central midfield that can pass the ball and a team which stays compact, so the man on the ball has lots of options. Gilberto Silva gives you neither - no range of passing, no movement to pass and receieve, and these days he marks from long range. I know i'm accused of having a thing against him, and he clearly has his virtues, but I'm astonished that he still gets a game.

    When you think of all the great players Brazil has had in the centre of midfield i find it sad that he plods about there - and it's very sad too to see Ronaldinho looking more and more like an ex-player.

    Still, Wednesday is Peru at home - a team with an away record of 5 games, all defeats, scoring 1 and conceding 17. They also have important players suspended. So it should be a very comfortable win - though any conclusions drawn from the game have to be taken just as tentatively as conclusions drawn from their display at altitude on Sunday.

  • Comment number 22.

    if messi is the best attacker in the world then he is in the same team as the best defensive midfielder in the world in Mascherano. While his passing may not be in the same range as other players his tackling and reading of the game are better than most cb's

  • Comment number 23.

    Tim your last comment was probably a fair assesment of the game but i just think that when brazil play at altitude they use it as an excuse for the performance rather than going ou on the field and working hard to get a result. Like you it pains me see Gilberto Silva in midfield for Brazil. Defensivly suspect and a bad passer it makes it worse when Hernanes is overlooked. Its not just the fact Hernanes can pass and looks technically better. I would say he is a better bet defensivley too.
    Is there some reason Dunga does not like him?

  • Comment number 24.

    What struck me, was the amazing discipline of the argentine players in the fisrt half in relation to what appeared to be their zones. Correct me I am wrong I hadn't noticed it before, but for the first goal, the defender stole the ball away from his own keeper, ran the length of his half but didn't cross the half way line, passed the ball to midfielder and then stopped dead as if therw was a brick wall in front of him. the midfielder, who gave it to striker also stopped once his job was done, the striker ran and scored. Perhaps you guys are used to watching that but for me, it just seemed a sort of new way of playing for Argentina and certainly nothing you would see in the premier league. Very disciplined and playing by sections of the field.

  • Comment number 25.


    23 agreed - the most mystifying thing for me about the gilberto silva thing is that these days i don't think he defends very well any more.

    I was amazed that Hernanes wasn't in the squad. At senior level he's only had a few minutes as a sub last year v Sweden. By his own admission, he didn't have a great Olympic tournament, but there were lots of interesting moments there, and he has the potential to come through as a key player in the brazilian midfield.

    Perhaps the Confederations Cup would be a good time to get him in - but as it co-incides with the clsing stages of the Libertadores, in which Sao Paulo will probably feature, maybe that too will be difficult.

  • Comment number 26.

    Tim, what do you think of Ever Banega??

    Last I heard he had joined Athletico Madrid on loan from Valencia.

    Can you see him breaking the up the Mascherano Gago partnership.

    Many Thanks

    Nick

  • Comment number 27.

    To 8#
    Heinze isn't liked because he tends to give needless fouls away, gets yellow carded pretty much every time he plays for us and because he generally causes trouble in the back for us, regardless of the opposition...although he does give 100% in every match. I hope that answers your question.

  • Comment number 28.

    It is interesting that wherever you go in the world there is debate about how the national manager has got it wrong by picking a certain player over another. In England I dont think anyone can understand Downing getting onto the pitch when Ashley Young cannot. In Italy its all about Cassano and why he was not picked and its the same in South America. Why are Pato and Hernanes not picked yet Ronaldinho and Gilberto Silva are? In Argentina the fuss at the moment is all about riquelme( although performances like messi's ill quiten that down in a hurry) Lets face it there are million's of us that could so a better job than these so clled managers!

  • Comment number 29.

    Tim, would you agree that the with the midfield of Gilberto Silva and Felipe Melo that the attacking players seemed to get isolated? I noticed many times when Brazil got the ball in midfield, they were having to pass it long towards Robinho and Elano; something which those two players hardly excell at. Is that more because they played too deep, or because the attacking quartet didn't work hard enough to present themselves in good positions to receive a pass?

    And will Pato get a start against Peru? Is Kaka' more like to be fit?

  • Comment number 30.

    good article as always tim.
    messi (the best footballer in the world since january 2008 - april 1009) is not the focus point of this article. the article talks about maradona and argentina and how he changed to a back 3 and what we may expect next. it is concerned about maradona the manager.

    messiis - i agree with you 100%. butcher and company were never angels. i remember in the 2006 WC it was england 0 0 T&T until crouch pulled the hair of a centre back to win a header and england won. had the referee punished crouch with a yellow then maybe gerrard may not have tried a long ranger and they would have drawn. 2 less points would have meant no last 16 for them and paraguay would have faced colombia instead and so on. the point is england has no status as the gentleman of the game.

  • Comment number 31.

    for all my admiration for his type of play, Gago fails to impress me in all but a couple of games ive seen him play.

    he lacks mobility and is nowhere near as sharp with the ball at feet as Redondo (the player everyone seems to compare him with). he rarely bosses a game and cant set the tempo of the play like Requelme. From the alternatives that are available to maradona i can see why the masch/gago partnership is one worth pursuing, as they both have age on their side and complement each others playing style, but i cant help but think if Veron wasn't in the twilight of his career his superior ball playing and quality would easily leave Gago on the bench.

    For all his qualities, he seems to me a player who shows his best when his team is playing well but not one to shine when the chips are down, or when under the strain of being up against top quality adversaries in the middle of the park.

    Time will tell if he can step up to the mark come the world cup and time is still on his side but I dont see him ever being at the same level as Redondo or Veron.

  • Comment number 32.

    Messi's dribble was good but it wasn't that good.
    This is another example of commentators overreacting to a piece of skill by someone with a reputation.
    If A.N Other had done this whilst playing for Wales against whoever, nobody would have batted an eyelid but because Messi's done it, everyone's getting excited.
    It's the same week in week out on match of the day et al. Ronaldo bends over to do his laces up and someone starts gushing in the commentary box and hyping on about his fleet of foot or some other rubbish.

  • Comment number 33.

    messiis - i agree with you 100%. butcher and company were never angels. i remember in the 2006 WC it was england 0 0 T&T until crouch pulled the hair of a centre back to win a header and england won. had the referee punished crouch with a yellow then maybe gerrard may not have tried a long ranger and they would have drawn. 2 less points would have meant no last 16 for them and paraguay would have faced colombia instead and so on. the point is england has no status as the gentleman of the game.
    ---------
    In fairness that famous quarter-final of 1986 did contain one infamous piece of dishonest play - Fenwick's assault on Maradona, which these days would mean a red card and lengthy ban.

    So far so good for Maradona. Heinz is still rubbish but some of the younger defenders look promising, I think playing Gago and Mascherano together is a good idea. I'm not sure why Gutierrez starts (I don't think his touch is good enough) and Di Maria needs starts at some point, but overall this is progress.

  • Comment number 34.

    Very good read Tim thanks!

    Watched the game it was strange first half Argentina played at a very slow tempo, i didnt like the formation to be honest - would like to see a back four in the future. Still think a 'Number 9' is needed - Bring Back Crespo! Milito is reportedly injured for the Bolivia game, as is Lavezzi.

    I would like to second as to why heinze is not popular in his homeland? Is the nickname 'el Gringo' for him used as an insult or is there nothing to that? Hes one of my favorite players though i have to admit he isnt the same player since that nasty knee injury (not as a left back anyway) - still good however and should be in the XI.

    Tim i read an old article today about Cavenaghi and Maxi Lopez http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/world_football/4303805.stm - what strange paths they have taken since this, can Cavenaghi realistically become a regular for the national side? Im a big fan of him, unfortunately hes injured at present but has had a great record at Bordeaux.

    And a question i really need answered the Uruguayan midfielder Pablo Garcia - has he retired from international football? or not in favor?

  • Comment number 35.

    I think maradonna needs to pull his finger out and settle his differences with riquelme ! i just cant see argentina challenging either of spain or holland in the world cup without riquelme in their side and a different formation, a good side like spain and holland would murder argentina because its to loose a style, they go one for one at the back (bad idea) because even england would rip their defence apart, its shocking... gago is a pub team player, tevez is so over rated its unreal, hes just a bundle of energy, but messi - what a player, but you cant seriously ask one player to win you a tournament single handedly, they need riquelme, he controls the tempo of games, scores goals and plays balls in for strikers that will certainly frighten a defence, spain for world cup i think, i just cant see any team having enough possession of the ball to hurt them, they have like 65% in every game, thats unelievable, and with the players they got, youch, its theirs to lose ! p.s. brazil wont be slovaki there unbelievably poor !

  • Comment number 36.

    15. At 11:23am on 30 Mar 2009, messiisgod wrote:
    A shame that an HONEST Argentinian couldn't deliver the final touch....

    I suppose 1986 showed that a left-handed little runt silently begged forgiveness before God and was told to show the world that instead of being a shameless little cheat, that he was the finest dribbler of a football in the history of World football.....

    From the 'World Cup according to Terry Butcher', to be published by Harper Collins in 2010, I believe........

    ---------------
    Terry Butcher is one of the desperate old breed of hypocritical English defenders who regard a forearm smash or sly elbow to the face as fair game but cry to the referee when the constantly fouled players with skill retaliate in their own way.
    ---------------

    Perhaps so, perhaps not.

    I'm sure you'd also give an equally damning verdict on that inveterate complainer, Mr Peter Shilton, whose goalkeeping skills might arguably and reasonably be in the all-time World XXII, if not the all-time World XI, who is seen in video footage at the time remonstrating verbally with the referee, gesticulating towards a hand and generally giving the impression that he hadn't dedicated his life to footballing excellence only to be cheated on the biggest stage of all through no fault of his own.........

  • Comment number 37.

    #13 - If you can hand on heart say that you've never seen any England players cheating, such as diving for a penalty or as has been said pulling hair, then I'll accept this. Do you criticise England players when they cheat? Of course you don't, so give it a rest.

  • Comment number 38.

    Perhaps so, perhaps not.

    I'm sure you'd also give an equally damning verdict on that inveterate complainer, Mr Peter Shilton, whose goalkeeping skills might arguably and reasonably be in the all-time World XXII, if not the all-time World XI, who is seen in video footage at the time remonstrating verbally with the referee, gesticulating towards a hand and generally giving the impression that he hadn't dedicated his life to footballing excellence only to be cheated on the biggest stage of all through no fault of his own.........

    ----------------------------------

    Shilton 6ft 1 inches
    Maradona 5ft 5 inches

    Yes, of course Shilton wasn't at fault

  • Comment number 39.

    Firstly, a great read.

    I watched the game on Sky Sports and thought that contrary to your comments in the article that some were cheering and some were jeering, I thought it sounded like the crowd reaction to Veron was overwhelmingly negative rather than mixed? I could be wrong as the sound editing in football can often be misleading.

    I have always been a huge fan of Veron and thought he was highly respected back in Argentina so why was he getting so much stick on Saturday from his own fans? Surely it cant be from the 02 world cup still or do they just think he's not up to the job any more?

  • Comment number 40.

    Shilton 6ft 1 inches
    Maradona 5ft 5 inches

    Yes, of course Shilton wasn't at fault

    =========================================

    ??? not sure if i can see what point you are making here, are you suggesting shilton is actually at fault for not using his height advantage so he deserved it?

    if the ball is in the air at a height that BOTH of them can reach, its not about who is tallest but who gets there first. shilton with a catch wouldve got there first, as theoretically all he had to do was catch it just above Maradona's head. but it didnt work out that way did it, because it wasnt Maradona's head that was used to beat him to it

    i'm not here to wade in some "Maradona is/isnt a dirty cheat" debate, but you've been quite unfair and dismissive on Shilton there given the circumstances

  • Comment number 41.

    to 35#
    have you noticed the contradictions in your comment? First you say that you cant expect one player to win the world cup for you, but then start saying how much Argentina need Riquelme to win it...put it this way, if there is one player that can win the world cup for us its Messi, not Riquelme.

  • Comment number 42.

    Messi had a great game, unlucky not score that goal. Questions:

    1) Ronaldo has shown he can still score, do you think there's any chance of him being included in the squad for the Confederations Cup?

    2) How much do you rate Carlos Vela? And have you watched him play for Arsenal? I feel he has great potential to be one of the best in the world.

    3) The U-17 South American Championships are starting next month and it should be very good. Who should we look out for? Lets hope we find the new Messi or Pato

  • Comment number 43.

    Tim,

    I agree Brazil had a shocking game against equador as they went on the pitch already beaten because they have hardly won any match there in the past due to the altituide. but is this not the same starting 11 with the exception of Juan that trashed the world champion italy with style 2 - 0 at the emirates? everyone was talking about there dazzling and impressive performance and how they won italy with the samba style.. now they have lost and the jury i sout again saying how some of them should not be in the naational team..

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi Tim, great blog as always. Not going to ask any questions but would like to praise you for both this blog and the work you do on the world football phone in which I have started listening to weekly since the start of the year. You and the team really know what you're talking about and I will enjoy learning more about South American football and more in the future.

  • Comment number 45.

    Ah why do people ALWAYS have to bring up the maradona debate.. jeez get a room people
    anyway
    great blog tim, i saw parts of the game and also saw the fantastic dribble by messi.. just wish he ended it with a goal!! fantastic player, much much much better than christiano ronaldo in my opinion..
    Argentina seem to be playing a lot more like argentina... the same cannot be said for brasil.
    I am in brasil and of course watched the game against ecuador... brasil were terrible..ecuador played them off the park!
    i dont know why pato didnt play, he wouldv been very valuable against the slow looking ecuador backline.. also gilberto silva?? surely its timeto give hernanes or a younger fitter hungrier player a go??
    I still cant believe that the end result was 1-1...
    Julio Cesar...what a goalkeeper!!!!!!!!!!!

    And to answer a question above about dunga... i havnt met a brasilian that thinks he should be the coach of brasil.. i agree with them too

  • Comment number 46.

    Tim: your comment on the Argentina Venezuela game was very good, but just one thing, the most popular player by a mile in Argentina is Carlos Tevez, no "El Gringo Heinze". Carlitos has the rare privilege of being loved and respected for everybody regardless the colors of the crowd.

  • Comment number 47.

    Maradona has played his football with zeal and in a very competitive ambience. He was a colossus as a captain. Now he is the coach but wont be much different. You can be sure of total commitment though.

    No doubt his hunger to win at all costs cannot have diminished in the role transition. With strong likes and dislikes, he will mold his team into a tool he thinks to be perfect for his purposes. Whatever or whoever does not fit into his scheme of things will fall by the wayside. Outside influences may not sway Maradona much. I think Requelme was quick to reach the surmise that he could not operate under Diego's huge shadow and called it a day. And Diego erased his name with alacrity.

    Team selection is a trial and error process. So far Diego has gone instinctively for the best. Who can get into Diego's head and find out why Higuain is on the sidelines. His time will come.

    Apparently Argentine football has taken a calculated gamble and it may actually turn out to be a good one. With Diego in charge they may have a lot to bear with. As long as the results keep flowing, there should be little to complain about.

    Despite Spain's high profile form and seeing the ease with which they claimed the European honours, I place Argentina's credentials to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy very high. But first the qualifiers, though.

  • Comment number 48.

    Tim, I'd like your opinion on the following question, centered around the technique of Argentinian players.

    A topic which seems to be constant in discussions regarding English football, centers around the notion that England fail to produce of a conveyor belt of technical talent, in the way in which Holland or Spain do, for example. An explanation for this supposedly, lies at the grass roots of football in England, in which the emphasis is very much on tall, powerful, well-built kids who over a long, wide pitch, in a 80-90 minute game, over-shadow the smaller, perhaps more technically abled players. In other European countries, such as Holland and Spain, the emphasis on players with technique rather than power, is supposedly much more prominent.

    If we translate this notion to South American football, and instanstly, Brazil stands out as a prime example of this theory - many children start out playing 'Futsal' - the likes of Ronaldinho have ackowledged the impact of this on their game, with the AC Milan forward stating:

    Source: http://www.uefa.com/competitions/futsal/news/kind=1/newsid=536269.html

    "It's helped me a lot because in futsal it's all short passes and on a football pitch it's totally different - you have more time to think," Ronaldinho said. "When I was little we always played futsal and now it's easy to control the ball in short spaces. The way I control the ball, that's where it's helped me a lot." It is not just forwards who owe a debt to futsal, AC Milan defender Cafu said his early experiences stood him in good stead. "I played for two years when I was young. All the kids in Brazil play futsal, it's a great game. It's good for dribbles in short spaces on the football pitch."

    We consider Argentina, and an instant view of the 'up and coming' generation of players is a prime example of how technically brilliant Argentina is; Messi, Tevez, Aguero, Lavezzi and Gago are all players with an exceptional technical ability, with the likes of Aimar, Riquelme, Veron & Redondo proof of Argentina's ability to constantly produce players with world class technical ability in previous years, not to mention the stars old, such as Maradona and Mario Kempes.

    However, how does Argentina nuture and produce players of such technical ability? I'm not completely sure if 'Futsal' is played in Argentina, and do not feel Argentinian clubs or the Argentinian government possess the finance to create many five-a-side pitches for youngsters to play on - something seen in countries such as Holland, where top, technical youngsters are produced, although I may be wrong on both accounts. The old 'rags-to-riches' story can be applied to many Argentinian players, who presumably just began playing football on the street. My question is, where do Argentinian players receive, or inherit this brilliant technical ability, or is it simply part of their make-up?

    Thanks

  • Comment number 49.

    to 48:

    I think its just a general difference in a nations perception on how to play the beautiful game. We in England aren't as technically focused as south Americans and as you say some other European countries, I think its just our football culture. Throughout history English footballs strengths were in physical, athletic and high stamina football, this ethic continues to this day (much to my dismay.

    You speak to your average English football fan, then go speak to an Italian football fan, you will notice a completely different take on things.

    I think only when people in England realise that the game doesn't have to be played at 100 mph and that not every pass has to be a forward one, there will be no change in the miserly quantities of technically gifted talent we produce.

    Just think of this next time you hear a parent shout "Get rid of it" or "get stuck in there" encouragingly from the sidelines at their sons Sunday league game.

  • Comment number 50.

    46 - you have misread - i wrote that Heinze was certainly NOT one of the most popular players.

    And on Veron - after he was jeered there were chants of 'Bruja, bruja' in is support - it's his nickame - so yes, the reaction was mixed.

  • Comment number 51.

    Argentinians in comparison already have a technical bias in the way they play at any level, they want to see passing football where they dominate possession before scoring the goal. This is their aspiration and so the physical qualities of speed, strength and stamina take a second to technical excellence all the way up to the highest level.

    Physical strength, stamina and commitment was once where we excelled as a nation, but with the advent of a ever more professional game, it has become more and more of a bare minimum.
    Stamina and strength is the easiest thing to train in players, Technical ability is harder to teach, takes more to learn and some would say, more of a natural ability that players either have or don't.
    This is why it must be spotted, nurtured and taught as the foremost attribute amongst young players.

  • Comment number 52.


    51 - on the style debate, I tend to think that the key thing is the IDEA of how the game should be interpreted, rather than specific coaching methods.

    Over time different countries have developed different cultural traditions, and this gets handed down from generation to generation. This is certianly true of Argentina, where the footballing identity is so strong. But even there, where they seem to produce a conveyor belt of small, technically gifted players with vision - even there youth specialists are worried - declining quality, youngeters running too much and thinking too little, premature pressure on youngeters for results rather than development- even there these things are a problem.

    The futsal debate - an interesting one. First of all, I have a huge distrust of people calling it the great Brazilian secret - the country's great tradition was well established and the trophy cabinet was full before futsal became so widespread.

    The greatest producer of footballing talent known to man is informal street football, parks and wastelands and so on. Urban expansion and increasing violence in Brazil has eaten up a lot of those old paces, and so futsal is the substitute - gets the kids indoors in a safe environment.

    It is clear that futsal is good for training reduced space skills. But another trend is also apparent - Brazil, once so fantastic at producing central midelders with a range of passing and an idea of how to circulate the ball on the big pitch, are now struggling to produce this type of player. Compare Clodoaldo and Gerson from 70 or Toninho Cerezo and Falcao from 82 with today's lot and weep!

  • Comment number 53.

    Mr Vickery;

    Do you think that the very steady incline in popularity of Rugby in Argintina and the fact that they are currently so high in the World rankings could have an adverse affect on the football in Argintina?
    A little bit off topic i know but i just wanted your view on this.

  • Comment number 54.

    Tim,

    Great article and a significant step back to your old ways of pampering us with good stuff. However, I do think that Bolivia's game will make a difference - for Brazil. If Argentina gets 3 or 4 in La Paz (as I believe they will) and Brazil fail to maul Peru, chants of "donkey" will resonate on Dunga's ears once more. Don't forget that Bolivia came back with a point from their trip to Brazil.

    I do agree with you that the real test is the games against Colombia and Ecuador. I fear, though, that Argentina will kill us in Bs. As. and take it for granted that they'll take all 3 points from Quito.

    As a Colombian living in Seattle, I completely agree with you on the Montero topic. He's great skills, pace, and remains a humble kid despite his success, but his talents are completely wasted here. He should be, like you said, in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, or Europe. Thankfully, he's only on loan here so I can hope that if he keeps it up, he'll be able to leave in June.

    I also have to say one last thing you're not going to like that refers back to our discussion from last week. You cannot possibly claim that your are not even a little biased towards your adoptive country. You claim that "Perhaps it's a bit harsh to judge Brazil on this match - they absolutely hate playing at altitude" (post 21) because they were playing at 2800m, yet Argentina's "Wednesday away to Bolivia will teach us little" when they'll be playing at 3400m. As you pointed it out, Venezuela won away at Ecuador and Caracas is not exactly at Aconcagua's altitude, is it? It'd be nice to see you simply accept Brazil's shortcomings without making any excuses. Personally, I think Dunga has to go and that's it.

    I look forward to tomorrow's games and your comments on them next week. I believe that Bielsa's Chile is long overdue a mention here. Since the 1990 qualifying fiasco and ensuing ban for 1994, Chile hadn't had such a real chance of making it to the World Cup with the exception of the Za-Sa team of 98. Forlan's Uruguay also deserves some talk. Even if we beat Venezuela tomorrow, I just don't see how we can keep either Chile or Uruguay from the four and a half qualifying places.

    Nice blog.

  • Comment number 55.

    Tim:

    Yes, its the 'ideas' of how it should be played.

    As a nation, when watching England play we are not educated in the way of technical possession football, this is evident in the amount of games ive watched in pubs, ive shook my head many a time in disbelief to the comments made towards the telly by people who think they know about football just because they 'know all the names'.

    This national mind set however does, unfortunately transfer down the coaching ladder and some would say all the way up to the premier league.
    Why do you think 3/4 of the big 4 have foreign managers.

    Young players are picked out on the basis of how effective they will be at their age level, this takes into consideration that the most effective players at a young age, when the body is still growing are the ones that are big or very quick, often overlooking technically gifted players that get bundled off the ball because of their slight frame.

  • Comment number 56.

    52 - Your point regarding Brazilian playmakers is extremely interesting. Brazil tend to to play with a box-midfield(4-2-2-2)if I remember correctly, yet the days of the Italian style 'regista' - a deep-lying playmaker, ala Xabi Alonso, Andrea Pirlo, seems to be absent from the Brazilian game currently, which quite possibly coincides with the 'Futsal boom', as the two holding players in the 4-2-2-2 tend to be traditional 'Makelele' holding players.

    So would you say that the reason for Argentina's success in almost every position regarding technical ability - eg. Messi, Aguero, Tevez in the area, Riquelme, Aimar*, Maxi Rodriguez in the final third, Veron, Gago from a deeper stance - is simply down to the footballing philosophy of the natives?

  • Comment number 57.


    54 -please read my previous post (number 52) - it ends with a heartfelt criticism of the way Brazil play nowadays.

    The 'we're not going to learn uch about Argeina on Wednesday' comment is not anti-Argentina - totally the reverse. La Paz is a one off game - Argentina could be turned over there, as Paraguay were last year, but it won't mean they're a bunch of no hopers.

  • Comment number 58.


    54 - I've got a piece on the Chile-Uruguay game which should be up on the website of sports illustrated (www.cnnsi.com) tomorrow.

    The great thing from the Colombia point of view is that, oviously, both sides can't win! So if Colombia can win in Venezula on Tuesday, they're back in the race.

  • Comment number 59.

    @56:

    Yes in my opinion it is, I think that the philosophy in Brazil has changed in regard to the ball playing deep playmakers.
    I would put forward that the reason being was the baron spell they had after winning the 70' world cup and the reality check they had to confront which started when playing the high pressing total football of the Netherlands in 74'.

    Since then there seems to have been a move away from the reliance of possession the deep lying playmakers gave to a more physical, quick counter attacking style. Though im sure there are still many advocates of the old style left in Brazil.

    Argentina in contrast, seem to have stuck to that philosophy and its almost a national ideology. Though the national team have gone through fazes with different tactical bias, they seem to always end up back to what they know.

  • Comment number 60.

    Brilliant as ever Tim.

    Has Gago now taken Cambiasso's place in the team? I'm a big Cambiasso fan but i guess he's no longer needed now with Masch and Gago?

  • Comment number 61.

    Tim, I have a question about Argentina's opponents Venezuela.

    Athletic Bilbao defender Fernando Amorebieta was born in Venezuela and could play for the national team. While he was called up to the Spain squad earlier this season (but didn't play so could still play for either country,) would he benefit by playing for Venezuela instead?

    With Venezuela he would get more caps (albeit against lesser opposition) but do they have a realistic chance of qualifying for a World Cup in the near future?

  • Comment number 62.

    Hi Tim,
    I've heard Ronaldo (the real one obviously) has had a great start at Corinthians, I knows he's had his differences with Dunga in the past but from your point of view is there a chance he could get recalled and maybe even make the squad for WC2010? Personally it would be something i'd love to see 12 years after I sat in awe of him at France 98'.
    Cheers

  • Comment number 63.

    The diddymen performed very well for Argentina even Maradona is only 1.65m,it's something I have spoken about many times on BBC Radio 5 World Football phone in with Tim about.How Argentinian football keep producing these small agile forwards 'with a low centre of gravity'.
    I watched the Equador v Brazil game last night on Sky was impressed with Equador in particular their no 11 Christian Benitez who plays for a Mexican club. Apart from his stylish hair cut [he had the no 11 shaved into back of his head] he was fast unselfish with the ball and most fouled Gilberto [former Highbury favourite] made some cynical tackling because Benitez was so too fast for him.How Brazil missed Kaka hope to see him fit for Wednesday's game/Brazil were woeful at the back which Equador expolited they have Julio their goalie to thank for a string of good saves.Look forward to Wednesday hope no team is made to look an April Fool.

  • Comment number 64.

    Tim,

    57 - I take it back. You posted 51 as I was typing my comment. Good to see you criticize them. Also, I wasn't saying you were being anti-Argentinian but rather too pro-Brazilian but the clarification helps.

    58 - I'll certainly try to look that up. I didn't know you wrote there too. Personally, I'd like for Chile to win and have them "run away" with it and make it a two-horse race between Uruguay and Colombia - much like the last two times. I'll be happy with a tie though.

    Enjoy this week's games!

  • Comment number 65.


    I like the way the Argentines play their football. With Maradona at the helm the artists in the Argentine squad will have ample opportunities and encouragement to play their natural game. The 4-0 win is a fine start for Diego and his boys.



    Dr. Cajetan Coelho

  • Comment number 66.

    argentina played well sure enough, but venezuela ws not the team that i last saw playing against ecuador! they looked scared to attack argetina and were just thinking on how not to lose the game! soemtinh argentina were able to see from the start!

    i think argetina have a lot to accomplish yet, bolivia will not be easy and not talking just about altitude! argetina can easily walk past colombia! ( did anyone see the game v Bolvia on Saturday, Colombia won against a team who were ready to lose) argetina need to be careful in Quito, if ecuador played like they did on sunday, and with better luck they will have it very difficult for them..

  • Comment number 67.

    Ecuador reminded me of Brazil 1982, great football but lacking a striker to finish off the moves, remember Serginho? Cristian Benitez and Joffre Guerron are amazing when out on the wing but need a guy up front to convert their passes - ironically Brazil now have the striker (Baptista) but not the rest of the team to go with him!

  • Comment number 68.

    Hi Tim, I was just wondering what you think of the current Brazilian national side? They seem to be struggling a bit in qualifying and as a fan I am concerned. They will surely qualify, but do you think they will be good enough to go far in the World Cup finals?

  • Comment number 69.

    Tim in your main article you comment on the Mascherano - Gago partnership. Surely you regard Estaban Cambiasso as a better player than Gago? He is more experienced at club and international level and has won more (he'll definitely win more and have played a greater influential role at Inter than Gago at Real by the end of the season). If a list of the best deep play-makers in the world was drawn up Cambiasso would definitely be in it. And of course he was the man who finished off one of the best moves in World Cup history.

  • Comment number 70.

    Great blog as always Tim. What are your thoughts on Nicolas Millian, currently playing for Colo Colo in Chile? Is he the potential superstar that everone is making out? Cheers.

  • Comment number 71.

    England's footballing philosophy is just fine. Perhaps if the World Cup was played on winters only then the dead boring style of Italy, Argentina and Brazil would be less successful.

  • Comment number 72.

    Dear Tim,

    First of all, would just like to congratulate you for your blog!
    Regarding some of the issues discussed. Firstly the Brazil vs Ecuador match. Apprently the last 2 World Cup Qualifiers we played there (Im brazilian), we lost to Ecuador...so this is quite a common trend, and nothing to be surprised about. Also the fact that we have not played well, is not a surprise. Often Brazil goes to these sort of fixture without a lot of motivation, and our key players treat it as a training session. People seem to forget that a few months ago we beat Italy 2x0, and Portugal 6x2...also they seem to forget that if it wasn't for a goals at the 89th minute, we would be 2nd place, only 3 points behind Paraguay. Anyhow, I believe Wednesday we will probably beat Peru by a good margin and suddenly everyone will start hyping us once again (like they did after the Italy match, Chile match and against Venezuela).
    In addition, its important to understand a bit the way that Brazil currently play and like to perform. Unfortunately, at the moment it seems that we are a team better at counter attack than when we have a lot of possession. We need teams to attack us, so that we can have space and time to create something. We also don't play a collective game, as Argentina and Spain do (and this is not a new trend). Brazil has recently always depended on individual talent, and we always expect that a few moments of talent from some of our players will get us through. The fact that we have someone like Dunga in charge also doesn't help. He seems to dislike some of our best and most in form players, Pato and Diego, and likes to construct our midfield entirely with defensive midfielders (and none of them any good!). However, I do think that when it comes to a proper tournament (World Cup or Confederations, we will have more than enough talent to lead us through).
    Lastly, just wanted to comment briefly about the Argentina match...I watched it and thought they were brilliant. Messi is an amazing player, and has probably the best ball control since Maradona. I thought Tevez also has an amazing match, especially his pass for Messi's goal that I thought was very intelligent. The only player who was a bit disspointing was Aguero...and of course their goalkeeper which seemed to be a calamity waiting to happen.

  • Comment number 73.

    Tim,

    Considering Brazil endured 24 years without a world cup win and during that period saw the efficient Germans dominate, while there own attempts to prove their traditional style of play could still deliver, failed, with Tele Santana's sides of 82 and 86, is it any wonder Brazil came to the conclusion that their celebrated brand of football was outdated and set about changing, by adopting a more pragmatic approach?

    Also, I have to say, even as a purest - who is consistently disheartened by the style of modern day Brazilian teams - its pretty difficult to argue against the pragmatists who can point to Brazil's trophy haul over the last 15 years to prove their point of view. By contrast, Argentina's reputation has been enhanced in recent times off the back of their entertaining brand of passing football and yet is the winning of hearts and minds enough back in Argentina in the face of continued failure? - After all, Argentina has not won a mayor trophy since 93 and I can't help but feel that if Argentina fail again at next years world cup, then just like Brazil in the late 80's, they will be forced to abandon their football traditions in search of silverware.


    It's also interesting to read your comments about Argentinean youth development experts and their fears for the future. Obviously this is a consequence of the globalization of football, with South America, Africa and Asia no longer producing talent for their domestic game, but producing players to sell to Europe instead. I can remember watching a documentary on Brazil's youth development a couple of years back and the fear some youth team coaches had about the insistence from their clubs to concentrate on developing physically strong players to sell to Europe, while often ignoring more technically gifted youngsters for being too small.

  • Comment number 74.

    Hi Tim,

    I couldn't help notice the winger Joffre Guerron Mendes in the Equador Brasil game. He looked brilliant and thought he must be some player if Antonio Valencia is having to play more in the middle than on the wing. I did a bit of research on Guerron and found out he won player of the year in the 2008 Libertadores. I saw some clips of him on youtube and he looked a great player. Then I discovered that he is on the bench most weeks for Getafe. Can you please shed some light on why you think he hasn't been a success in Europe thus far and do you think he could cut it in the English Premier League? He made some of Brasil's defenders look very ordinary.

    Cheers
    LB

  • Comment number 75.

    I think i'm running out of words to describe Lionel Messi, he is an absolute phenomenon doing things that even Maradonna couldn't do.

    What an honour and privelege to be able to watch this guy during my lifetime, have you ever seen anyone be as close to the perfect footballer as Messi.

    The EPL is better than La Liga for me for a number of reasons, but there are only a few arguments i would put forward to favour La Liga and the strongest one of all is Lionel Messi. The guy has me on the edge of my seat every single week and I watch La Liga and Barcelona more specifically to see this guy and i guess you'd have to have the kind of passion for football that i many others have to understand why we bang on about Lionel Messi.

    I am a season ticket holder at Manchester United and have been for some time so you know i'm not bias when i say this: Ronaldo as good as he is will never reach the ability of Messi in terms of technique, close control, dribbling, pace, vision and first touch and all round ability.

    3 words to sum up the best player in world football by a mile - Genius, Genius and Genius.

  • Comment number 76.

    I'm sorry DB9, but this is going completely over the top. Yes, Messi is the best player in the world at present, and yes, he's the most talented player of his generation, but he still has much to prove.

    You do realize that if he manages it, this will be Messi's first full season without injury since turning pro? - I bring this up, because I see many similarities between Messi and Brazil's Ronaldo. - Ronaldo was every bit as good as Messi in his late teens and early twenties, yet, there were worrying signs surrounding a chronic knee injury that eventually took its toll later in his career.

    The fact that Messi has suffered from a chronic injury himself (at least once in every season since turning pro, up until the current campaign) is worrying, and casts doubts on whether his body can cope with the stress of playing pro football.

    The way Guardiola has prevented Messi picking up injury this term, is to rap him up in cotton wool, by often using him as a sub in league matches, but with the demands placed on modern day players, if he has got an underlining problem, its not going to be long before it shows up again.

    Secondly, its one thing getting to the top, its another thing staying there, because once your the worlds best your a marked man - the tackling becomes stronger, the pressure becomes more intense and its how you react to this over time that determines whether you go on to become an all time great, or just another wasted talent. So, we have to wait and see how Messi copes with this pressure season in, season out, before we get too carried away.

    Also, all the evidence seems to be showing that modern day players have much shorter spells at the top of the game, because of the demands physically and mentally placed upon them. So, its going to be very hard, if not impossible, for Messi or anyone else, to emulate the achievements of the greats from previous generations.

    Finally, I'm sorry, but hyping Messi up as being as good, if not better than Maradona, before he's even achieved a fraction of what Maradona did, is nonsense. If Messi goes on to inspire Argentina to glory at the world cup next year then we can start the comparisons, until then, its just all hype with no substance to back it up.

  • Comment number 77.

    My post 63 comment the last sentance'hope no team is made to look an Aprril Fool well it happened Boliva 6-1 Argentina.Altitude difficulties bumpy pitch and Angel de Maria sending off after only 7 minutes on the pitch.Joaquin Botero who plays for a 2nd division Mexican side scored a fine hat trick, Bolivia played as if it was a cup final.It was Argentina's biggest defeat since the home defeat to Colombia when they lost 0-5 in 1993.
    Perhaps Tim can explain why the ball behaves so differently at high altitude,Messi had a coule of chances at goal but it was Bolivia's day they took their chances played the long ball beat the off side trap and were 3-1 up by half time. Angel getting sent off for a lunge at Garcia in the second half spelt,the end for Argentina. Brazil ko at 2am dont think I can stay up for that. watch it tomorrow 1-1 last time they met.

  • Comment number 78.

    Surprising how Argentina broke apart today, I think this sows that Maradona (and Dunga in my opinion) still have to learn a lot to be able to overcome bad situations as the team flopped and didn;t show much of a reaction.
    Sincerely, I thought Carrizo was shocking today, he came out for a ball he would never get and became hopeless in the middle of the area in one goal, made a mistake on the penalty play and looked as he simply wasn't sure to go for the ball in the last goal. You can blame the altitude, but 3 mistakes are a lot for me.
    I can see Argentina picking itself up and then showing some good football, but it will depend on the players and, specially, Maradona.

  • Comment number 79.

    Futebol-arte, i'll admit i was slightly overboard guilty as charged.

    As for hyping up a 21 year old who looks destined to become one of the greatest players considering his exponential improvement season after season - not guilty, because just watching him it's scary how good he can become.

    As for Ronnie you're right, in his teens he used to be fantastic and fearless, what's happened? Scared to take players on, losing the ball alot, falling over, flailing his arms about. Just a couple of his traits i've noticed from the stands this year and it's very irritating.

    Compare him to Wayne Rooney who i've always believed is the heartbeat of this current crop of Manchester United players and you'll see who's the one that's going to have the better career.

    However if Ronaldo could cut out some of these annoying antics (because a guy that big doesn't need to go down as easily) and start regaining the form from his teens to last season you'll see a player equal to Messi because physically he is superior than the argentine and less injury prone.

    One thing i will agree with you on though is the treatment Ronaldo get's is ridiculous, i was over the moon to see him finally lunge and let some rage out at Danny Murphy last Saturday because it's about time he got his own back on the hack merchants who constantly get away with studs up tackles on him every week.

  • Comment number 80.

    #79 DB9 - #76 is talking about the proper Ronaldo - the real one who produces more than just one superb season!!

  • Comment number 81.

    Sorry Bantam i misread, but still you can appreciate my comments about CRISTIANO Ronaldo and Messi because i think what i've said seems pretty logical about the two best players in the world at the moment.

 

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