Lionel Messi scored five goals in a single game last week, becoming the first player in the Champions League ever to do so. Most were impressed; some were not. Against Bayer Leverkusen, they said: So what? It is a familiar argument -- and one that Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in particular have been forced to confront time and time again. Between them, they have racked up astonishing goal scoring figures, breaking records at every turn -- Messi has scored 50 goals already this season, Ronaldo 40 -- but the nagging doubt lingers. Yeah, they say, but against who?
Two more goals from Lionel Messi, taking him to 50 goals in all competitions in a remarkable season, saw Barcelona win 2-0 at Racing Santander on Sunday to close the gap on Spanish leaders Real Madrid back to 10 points.
They say the Ballon d'Or is democratic but it's not. Not really. A proper democratic vote surely relies on a universal, secret ballot. By contrast, one of the things that makes the Ballon d'Or vote so interesting to pick over is the fact that you can pick over it. The real fun comes after Messi and Xavi have stepped down from the podium and the list of voters and votes is handed out.
There are still those, remarkably, who ask whether tactics really matter, still those who persist with the Luddite insistence that the best players will win out come what may. No matter that Lionel Messi never produces his Barcelona form for Argentina or that Dani Alves regularly flounders for Brazil, Barcelona, these flat-earthers keep saying, win because they have the best players.
Lionel Messi scored his second hat-trick in four days as titleholders Barcelona marched into the knockout stage of the European Champions League on a night of milestones for the Spanish club on Tuesday.
Last season, Lionel Messi faced Osasuna having scored hat tricks in each of his previous two games. All the buildup was about whether he could become the first player since the War to score three trebles in successive La Liga matches. Osasuna, understandably, double-marked him and, in a tetchy game, Messi was booked for kicking the ball away in frustration. With 18 minutes to go, though, Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally broke through for Barca; the first player over to congratulate him was Messi, his face relaxed into smiles. For him, the most important thing was not his personal record, but the team, winning the game.
WEMBLEY, ENGLAND -- Surely now the doubters have been won over: this Barcelona is one of the greatest teams there has ever been. In Pep Guardiola's three seasons in charge Barca has twice won the Champions League, and it was denied a hat trick that would have placed it statistically alongside the Ajax and Bayern Munich sides of the seventies only by the combined might of Jose Mourinho and an Icelandic volcano.
The latest installment of the Super Clásico delivered a widespread sense around the world that amid the tackling, the fouling, the diving and the brawling a splendid exponent of true talent and pure soccer had risen above it all; the enduring image was that of Lionel Messi's two goals, and perhaps more poignantly his second solo slalom executed to perfection.
The last time the U.S. played Argentina, in 2008, the result was proof that a 0-0 score line could still produce a thrilling soccer game. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard stood on his head, and a huge crowd in the Meadowlands saw the Americans survive going toe-to-toe with supernova Lionel Messi and his talented Argentine teammates.
After bathing in the cesspool of FIFA politics last week, I'll admit it: I wanted to hear a story that restored some credibility to the great global game of soccer. And wouldn't you know it, I found one, courtesy of Lionel Messi, FC Barcelona, an energetic Baltimore foundation and a 17-year-old high school senior from Suwanee, Ga., named Jordyn Farrell.
Lionel Messi can chalk off another objective achieved in his young but already extraordinary career. His glorious goal in stoppage time Wednesday gave Argentina a 1-0 victory over Brazil in Doha, Qatar, his first win against the Seleção at the senior level.
Is the best form of defense a good offense? While Argentina's greatest concern ahead of the 2010 World Cup continues to be its vulnerable defense, head coach Diego Maradona is more than aware that if his team wants to be a force in South Africa, it needs to take full advantage of the abundance of talent it has up front.
One is the kind of athlete you might design in a lab: tall, lean and muscular, with a seemingly inexhaustible arsenal of skills. The other is a throwback, a scrappy little player whose abilities are more difficult to pin down because they border on the metaphysical. At 6'1" and 172 pounds, Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo is soccer's Magic Johnson: a big man with skills usually associated with smaller players. At 5'7" and 148 pounds, Barcelona's Lionel Messi looks more like somebody's kid brother and plays like Pete Maravich, with an otherworldly touch that allows him to do the unthinkable with the ball.
After a couple of years with nothing to show, FC Barcelona has finally been transformed into the most feared club in Europe. The Catalan giants have been nothing short of extraordinary this season, and if their magnificent form continues, they could be on track for a rare triple.
Lionel Messi left the field in tears during Barcelona's 1-0 win over Celtic in the Champions League last week. His latest injury -- a torn thigh muscle -- was a major blow not only for Barça, which will be without its brightest talent for at least six weeks, but it also raised wider questions about Messi's long-term future.
Todos los jugadores profesionales, salvo los porteros, marcan un gran gol a lo largo de sus carreras. Los grandes delanteros, si tienen suerte, marcarán un gol que pase a la historia. La diferencia entre Leo Messi y los demás es que tiene toda su carrera por delante, pero ya ha marcado tres en 2007 que perdurarán como obras de arte y serán admirados en los museos del fútbol, como hoy admiramos a Leonardo da Vinci, de aquí a quinientos años.