Ballon dO'r winner Messi's one big dream remains elusive
Football lovers the world over never tire watching Lionel Messi, the Argentinian in action or describing him and his wondrous skills. Be it at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata, where he had exhibited his god-given talent once in a friendly against Venezuela or in overflowing football stadia in Kerala or Goa, the mention of Messi is enough to raise a frenzy.
Such is the magic he has created and continue to create on a football field. Ask anyone in Barcelona FC the club he has faithfully served for years now and it would not be a surprise if one hears that Messi is the backbone of the team and the essence of this club's pathway to glory. If that is true, then so is his golden left foot which has mesmerised oppositions of various hue in the years he has been active.
There was a time when one would be floored watching the thunderbolts that the Brazilian great Roberto Carlos would unleash to stun the opposition ends. Not much later came his colleague Ronalidinho to enact some of those famous free kicks that brooked no stopping. Much on similar lines but done with a touch of artistry is what makes Messi somebody special with the ball at his feet.
Many of us may have had the fortune not of watching him in flesh and blood but on the television screens but still the effects of those goal scoring moments, particularly off dead-ball situations, have never been lost because of that.
The trade mark style stands out. An initial survey of his target, a few casual steps to the ball, that slight bend of the body and a left-foot chip of the ball. Enough and the ball would sail tantalisingly over the human wall and for a second seemingly out of the cage too only to see it dip and barely elude the goalkeeper's flailing arms to nestle into the net! Can anything be more breathtaking in football!
This is the man. Relatively short in stature, but big-hearted and rarely has one known of a footballer who has been associated with anything unkind other than footballing opposition's grievances! They say he hardly reacts to fouls, for those are the only ways to stop him! Once down from a foul he would invariably bounce back in a jiffy.
Messi can be a heartbreaker yes but to an opposition which thinks bottling him up would help them save the day. Injury time goals are not beyond him as he showed against Uruguay last month in a friendly when Argentine was 1-2 down and all seemed over bar the shouting. Considering the rivalry between Latin American nations the charged emotions can well be imagined. However, like a flash came a penalty and Messi does not mess up such opportunities! A draw it was even if it was not a win but the fans were happy and football was the major winner.
To pick him for another Ballon dÓr award, a record six to make him the highest winner of this award, in addition to the FIFA Best player of the year honour a few months earlier may add a few more trophies to his rich collection. But to football fans the world over he is already a gem which does not need any more polishing. It shines and the joy it brings cannot be fathomed.
Indeed, it is one of those miracles in world football that when a legend like Diego Maradona takes a bow from the international scene after his stupendous contribution another rises and that too in the same country. Post Maradona, the one big word on the football-loving fans lips everywhere has been Messi. Who would have thought that as a 13-year old, inflicted with a growth hormone deficiency, he would rise to dazzle the world one day.
Barcelona has been his saviour and in turn he has been the Club's mainstay now. Like Maradona he is not gifted with a good height but observers say his short legs enables him to make speedy bursts with good control over the ball. Maradona himself has acknowledged that he had never seen a player with Messi's ball control. That spoke volumes of this Argentinian's influential presence on the field.
Yet for all this Messi surprisingly has not delivered for Argentina where it mattered most, the Copa America or the World Cup. In each of these tournaments he had seen his country to the final before biting the dust so to say.
So disappointed was he after the 2016 Copa America final when Argentina lost to Chile, he himself missing a penalty, Messi wanted to quit the national team. Only two years earlier in the 2014 World Cup, he watched with despair Argentina losing 0-1 to Germany in the final with the winning goal coming at the fag end.
He was won awards aplenty, created spectacular records, won the hearts wherever he played but this one moment of glory has eluded him thus far. Lately however this Argentine great seems to have reconciled to things that are beyond him.
A touch philosophical now as age catches up, Messi believes if he is not destined to win that one big silverware for his country then so be it. No longer does he talk of sacrificing all that he had won thus far for that one elusive trophy. If it comes it comes, nothing more, nothing less. That is why when a talk comes on whether he too joins the list of the greatest in football, there is a pause. Messi is Messi but Maradona is Maradona, the greatest!