Monday 5 December 2016

Messi's genius makes all talk of tactics almost perverse

Published 09/05/2015 | 02:30

Messi made the difference in a pulsating game this week, delivering yet again - as he has done for 10 years now - when the stakes were at their highest
Messi made the difference in a pulsating game this week, delivering yet again - as he has done for 10 years now - when the stakes were at their highest

Quite the saddest take on events unfolding at the Nou Camp on Wednesday night was surely that lamenting the tactical naivety of Pep Guardiola.

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It highlighted how some minds are cursed to stay eternally closed to the idea that, in sport, individual genius can on occasion trump even the most refined of strategist. I always considered Diego Maradona to be the greatest player of my lifetime, but it is becoming increasingly hard to believe there has ever been anyone better than Lionel Messi.

He made the difference in a pulsating game this week, delivering yet again - as he has done for 10 years now - when the stakes were at their highest.

You know you are watching something beyond extraordinary when a footballer does something so utterly breathtaking that the only coherent response is to belly-laugh at its wonder.

That is what Messi did on Wednesday. He took us all out of the realm of sport into a place of virtual make-believe. What he did, for his second goal, especially, was beyond football. It was art on a great, green canvas.

To fixate instead upon Guardiola and the boldness of Bayern Munich's structure against Barcelona is to be guilty of two things. Firstly, it is to ignore the glaring reality that, in the mood, Messi is uncontainable. Secondly, it is to forget that - up to the 77th minute - the best chance of the night had fallen to Bayern's Robert Lewandowski.

In two moments of perfection, Messi changed everything at the Nou Camp. He did so by separating himself from all others on that football field and summoning a gift that, to most of his profession, remains scarcely imaginable, let alone attainable.

The only sensible thing to do with Lionel Messi, apart from the futility of assigning even three men to mark the extraordinary Argentinian, is to enjoy him. Sometimes it really is enough just to smile.

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