Lionel Messi stands in the way of the American soccer team which has had a dream run lately. The best soccer player in the world clashes with America in Houston, Texas, tonight at 8 p.m. at the NRG Stadium. Come to think of it, the American dream is not very different from Messi’s childhood dream, which took him to where he is right now.
Lionel Messi is at the top of the world. He is the only player to win the FIFA Ballons d’Or five times. Messi is even considered the best soccer player in the history of the sport, Diego Maradona and Pele notwithstanding. ESPNFC even quotes Maradona himself as having said that “Messi is my Maradona.”
Just one look at Lionel Messi’s career stats would be enough to banish thoughts that Cristiano Ronaldo is much better.
The only reason why Ronaldo is sometimes more popular than Messi is because of his flamboyant personality and of course, his height. He stands 6′ 0″ against Leo Messi’s 5′ 7″. Ronaldo is 31 years old to Messi’s 28. While Messi is introverted, Ronaldo is an avowed extrovert with a flair for the dramatic. And while Ronaldo always gets into a fight, Messi is the true epitome of a gentleman.
Ronaldo is also still busy playing James Bond: he has a string of Bond Girls. These ladies are top models Irina Shayk, Nataly Rincon, Paula Suarez, and Italian reality TV star Elisa De Panicis. In contrast, Lionel Messi has stuck with Antonella Roccuzzo. The two have known each other since childhood, and their relationship has remained strong since 2009. They also have two children. Perhaps it is this stable family life that inspires Messi to focus on his soccer craft, working like some kind of wind at his back.
In his characteristic soccer play, Lionel uses his short stature to his advantage. It makes him lighter, quicker, and able to adjust better to different game strokes compared to other players like Ronaldo with the height and the body mass to boot.
And speaking of body mass, Lionel Messi was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency when he was just ten years old. He would struggle with this syndrome for many years. In fact, if it wasn’t for growth hormone treatment, Messi probably would not have ended up playing for the Barcelona team. Instead, he would have stayed on with the original team that gave him his first big break in soccer, Newell’s Old Boys.
ESPNFC would underscore Lionel Messi’s strengths and weaknesses as follows.
“Strengths: His ball skills are second to none, his runs from midfield are usually lethal and he is almost impossible to tackle when he gets his head down. His balance when running at speed is incredible. Weaknesses: Too often he searches for a way to finish moves by himself without looking for teammates in a better position to shoot at goal.”
Moves Like Messi
FT Magazine underscores how Lionel Messi’s former manager, Pep Guardiola remarks at Lionel’s spectacular footwork, saying, “Messi is the only player that runs faster with the ball than he does without it.”
When America plays Argentina tonight, it will be a clash of two fervent dreams. One dream has to do with the American indomitable spirit, the one that says against all odds that it will prevail despite being the underdog. The other dream, fulfilled about a decade ago, has to do with an insatiable desire to overcome a body saddled by failure to thrive.
Which dream will prevail, only time will tell. It is said that there is an inherent advantage in the team which is relatively more hungry for victory. And yet, despite all its victories in the realm of soccer, the Lionel Messi team remains hungrier than ever. So may the best team win.
[Photo by Eric Gay/AP Images]