Thursday, 18 March 2010
As Lionel Messi scored another incredible hat-trick over the weekend it was clear that we were witnessing greatness before our very eyes. In a game that had seen Barcelona struggle to break down a well organised Valencia team the Argentine star demonstrated once again that it is impossible to legislate for genius. The first goal in particular was sensational, amazing, stunning or any other superlative you can think of.
Collecting the ball some 30 yards from goal, Messi left three defenders in his wake before cooly slotting past Cesar in goal. Words cannot do justice to the beauty of the goal but in the tightest of spaces Messi displayed superb close control with rapid changes of direction to completely carve open a Valencia defence that had been so resolute for the previous 56 minutes of the match. It was a joy to behold for anybody who loves sport other than that is, Valencia & Real Madrid fans. The look of bewilderment on Ángel Dealbert face perfectly encapsulated the magic of Messi & reinforced the idea that Messi is not some first among equals but a footballer without compare.
While football does not currently have anyone who can match Messi's brilliance there is one comaprison that is valid & that is one with Roger Federer. The Swiss superstar has widely been acknowledge as the tennis world's greatest ever player. His record is phenominal with 16 grand slam titles, a record 237 weeks as world no.1 & a sensational 23 consecutive semi final appearances in grand slam tournaments. And as good as Messi has been he's some way short of achieving those sort of stats. However where the comparisons ring true is in the artistry & genius of their respective games. Watch any Federer match and there will be moments of brilliance that will take your breath away. Shots that other players wouldn't even think of are executed with consumate ease by Federer. From outrageous half volleys on the baseline to smash hit returns off smashes Federer has proved the master of the sublime. He's even invented a few shots of his own bringing to mind Bobby Jones quote about Jack Niclaus when he said "Nicklaus played a game with which I am not familiar". And that sensation is transmitted by the watching public as they emit strange noises not heard at other tennis matches. Instead of standard cheers & applause we get moments of audible gasps as the crowd try to comprehend the genius before them. And that is the ultimate genius of Federer. It is not measured in stats but the ability to astound regular tennis watcher.
Likewise Messi has the same ability to mesmerise all who are fortunate to witness his brilliance. He does things on the football pitch that others can only dream of. Great goals, fantastic dribbling & outstanding technique only tell part of the story. His short career is littered with moments that draw the viewer out of his seat before leaving him awash with a mixture of joy & astonishment. It's a brilliance that sets him apart from his peers. The stats may say Wayne Rooney has scored more goals this season or that Ronaldo is more deadly from set pieces yet no-one can doubt the Messi operates in a different sphere to those great players. Messi like Federer is a once in a generation performer. They have the honours & records to justify their greatness but in 50 years from now what will be remembered will not be the bare statistics but the beauty & splendour of their games. Perhaps what best sums up these two giants of their respective sports is a quote by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer who said "Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see."