There you go! The official confirmation is out! Messi wins the Ballon D’Or for an unbelievable fourth time in a row. While he keeps breaking one record after the other, you’re only left with thinking ‘records are meant to be broken’. But who other than Messi can win five in a row? If there’s one, he’s right now not there in the football world yet. It’s almost inconceivable that anyone in the current football world can win it five times. It’s more likely to be a new prodigy to take the world by storm than any of the known contemporary footballers (Mata/Hazard/Oscar – prove me wrong!).
This incredible distinction of winning this coveted award four times (that too in a row) only makes the argument stronger and stronger that he’s the best footballer ever. In my opinion, while he’s an incredible footballer, he doesn’t even come in my top five best best footballers ever. If it’s all going to be based on personal records and trophies, Messi is right up there. But it’s never that black and white right?
I have my very well documented reservations about Messi. I feel quite strongly that much of his exploits is because of the fact that he plays for Barca and that’s all he’s done in his senior career. I’m still highly skeptical that he could continue or improve his form in a different set up – different league, different team, different language, different climate, different culture and different philosophy. I find Barca to be his comfort zone.
While Messi is an exceptionally talented player, he’s not a magician as he’s made out to be. He’s not even in my top five most creative players of this generation. By creative I don’t mean ‘creating goals’. By ‘creative’, I refer to the creativity of play. Messi doesn’t do the unimaginable or improbable. He does what he does best and he doesn’t surprise you with what he does but only surprises you with how he does. He’s not the type of player that thrills me like how a Ronaldinho or a Neymar would do.
The incredible thing about Messi is how consistently accurate and effective with what he does and how he’s not been found out yet despite the predictability and limited creativity in his game. For instance, a defender, in a one-on-one situation, will pretty we know what Messi would do but only that he cannot stop him from doing that. That consistency in success is mind blowing.
He also continues to be the most popular footballer and that shows in these polls and awards. It’s easy to support him and back him. He’s the favourite son of football Gods that he’s beyond any criticism whatsoever. Say he’s the best footballer ever you’ll find company. Say he’s not, chances are you’ll be pilloried for that. Such is the aura of ‘uncriticisability’ about him.
Also I think he’s lot more acceptable to the male psyche than someone like a Ronaldo. He’s the more humble, more mellowed character that we instantly accept as a role model for our kids while from the adult eyes we see a lack of personality. The slightly boring personalities are always safe role models. It’s extravagant ones that, as a society, we can’t deal with. Messi is not as gifted with words as he’s with the ball. That works in his favour. He’s never misquoted and he never has to explain what he meant and what he didn’t. There’s no chance of people having to be divided between whether he is confident of he is arrogant. Neither. He’s silent. When footballer of his ability is silent, it’s always considered to be a mark if humility.
In the rare occasions that he does speak, his aura of humility gets exposed. Like in the European player of the year event, he had two minutes to talk and found time to say Chelsea were lucky to beat Barcelona. How about being humble and accept they were beaten fair and square? For all his perceived humility, how about keeping quiet knowing very well that Barca got lucky in 2009 with an incompetent referee?
The moot point is, he has the whole world by his side. He is the most favourite footballer for every man and his dog. He’s reached such pinnacle with his individual records at an incredible acceptance level from media and public alike. What’s next for him? More goals assisted by Iniesta & Xavi, more trophies for Barcelona, more mazy runs and chipped finishes? More of the same?
As a footballer, he’s simply phenomenal. For me, Ronaldo is a more complete player than Messi. Neymar is a more creative player than Messi. But Messi is more efficient and productive than those two. In my mind, Messi is not being talked about because of how he plays football. He’s being talked about because of the output his football produces – in goals and assists.
If Messi had proven his success in a different set up other than Barca and had more creativity in his game, I’d rate him better even if he had half the goals and assists as he has now. That’s why while I’m amazed at his efficiency and productivity, I’m never going to be mesmerised by his magic. Neither by Ronaldo for that matter. Ronaldo is more unpredictable than Messi but still is way too short for the ‘best player of this generation’ tag. Neymar makes my jaw drop. He is a magician that Messi or Ronaldo can never be. He’s a truly creative player that I’d love to see play. He’s a player, if half as efficient, productive and consistent as Messi, would be worthy of the ‘best player’ tag.
As much as it sounds funny to say I do believe there’s definitely room for improvement for Messi. Now an improvement doesn’t mean scoring 100 goals in a calendar year. I’m not talking about increasing, it’s improving. A different dimension in his game. Entering into and conquering an unexplored territory. Not doing the same thing over and over and produce better results. It’s about having the courage and bravado to experiment something new and confirming that he can take his breath-taking football wherever he goes, whatever he does and however he does (like a certain rival of his has proved).
This is a period where the madness around Messi is supposed to reach exponential levels. I very well know that I’ve chosen the wrong time to air my views on the great little man. I have no idea of belittling his achievements because I can’t, no matter what I do. What I’m talking about is the alternative view on Messi which not popular but a view nevertheless. You can dismiss because it doesn’t match with yours. Or you can grudgingly accept some if not all of these views. Certainly my idea is not to undermine him on this day when he’s made another piece of history. See, I’ve even managed to write a whole article about him without any reference to his goal tally against Chelsea . . . Oops.