Barcelona continued their Scottish adventure yesterday with a 5-1 hammering of Dundee United. This game completed their pre-season tour and followed the 6-0 victory over Hibernian.
Lionel Messi scored a second half hat-trick which underlined his claims to be one of the top players in Europe. The other Barcelona scorers were those two average strikers, Thierry Henry and Samuel EtoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢o!
Dundee United did take the lead in the first half but that must have annoyed the Spanish giants because they equalised within twenty-six seconds!
To go in level at half-time must have been a pleasant surprise for the Dundee United faithful, but Barcelona stepped up the pace and pressure after the break and gave a clear demonstration of the difference in class.
Barcelona look to be in good shape under new boss Pep Guardiola and in a position to seriously challenge Real Madrid domestically and overturn the English domination of last seasonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Champions League. Whilst they will face far sterner tests than they have faced over the last week, Guardiola will be pleased with how things are shaping up.
Whilst one player does not make a team and Barcelona are blessed with several great players, it is essential for them to keep Lionel Messi fit and playing regularly. Without him last season, Barcelona struggled at times, and in an admittedly meaningless game yesterday, his introduction at half-time completely changed the whole outlook of the proceedings.
Even Dundee United manager Craig Levein joined the Messi fan club. Whilst praising his own players and lamenting the fact that they sometimes gave the ball away too cheaply, he added, “And, of course, there was the small matter of Lionel Messi, who is just a delight to watch.”
That comment speaks volumes. Sometimes managers and coaches just have to stand back and applaud the opposition. All managers are football fans and when you see a player who is able to do the type of things that Messi can do, even the opposition manager can appreciate what he does and enjoy watching him.
Sheer brilliance will always be appreciated by real football fans whoever it is and wherever they produce it. A good example of that was when the Real Madrid crowd applauded the two wonderful goals scored by Ronaldinho at the Bernabau a few years ago.
It is easy to forget that Messi is just twenty-one years old. He has the potential to be one of the all time greats. His fellow countryman, Diego Maradona refers to him as his Ã¢â‚¬ËœsuccessorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. That is some compliment.
At such a young age Messi has already won the FIFA U-20 World Cup with Argentina and La Liga twice, the Supercopa de Espana and the Champions League with Barcelona.
Individually he won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the U-20 World Cup. He has twice been named World Soccer young player of the year and has been selected in the FIFPro world select team and finished runner up in the FIFA world player of the year. He has won numerous other awards and has the potential to just go on winning them if he can stay fit.
All of these honours and accolades have been won despite the fact that the twenty-one year old has played just one hundred and ten first team games in the four seasons he has been with Barcelona. The twenty-eight league games he played in last season were the most league games he has taken part in so far. He also only has twenty-nine international caps for Argentina.
When you look at how much this young man has achieved in such a short time it suddenly becomes clear just how much potential there is for him to achieve amazing things as his career develops.
Many young players are praised and hyped way above the actual ability and prospects that they have. With Messi, his potential is frightening. If he stays fit and continues to do the right things, there is no limit to what he could do.
He seems to be a very sensible young man and there is no suggestion that he will be MaradonaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s successor in any way other than in his brilliance on the field of play. I hope he continues to make headlines for the right reasons because as Dundee UnitedÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s players, manager and fans found out yesterday, he is an absolute joy to watch. Even when it is your team that he is tormenting, he is still a joy to watch.
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