Lionel Messi: My memories of the best player ever

Posted by Drago

First of all I would like to say how delighted I am to be back as a contributor to Barcablog. I am sure that all my loyal readers (both of you) are equally delighted. For the rest of this season, I will share my thoughts pertaining to our beloved FC Barcelona with you. I hope you read them, enjoy them and maybe comment on them.

For my first column this season, I have decided to write about my memories of watching Lionel Messi, either on television or the Internet. In case you have just landed from outer space, Messi is our talisman and possibly already the greatest player of all time. Modern technology has made it possible for me, and many others, to be able to watch and enjot his exploits on a regular basis.

I remember the first time I saw Lionel Messi, It was when he came on as a second half substitute for one of Frank Rijkaard's teams at Camp Nou in 2005 (I think). I remember the commentator on ESPN (who unlike this season, then covered La Liga)  saying the Barcelona considered this young player to be the best prospect to ever come out of their system and that it was expected he would be a truly great player. Given his young age, I thought he must be good but thought that plenty of other would be young champions failed to live up to the hype. Because injuries and delays with Messi's Spanish citizenship restricted his appearances over the next couple of seasons, I don't remember much more of his early days with Barcelona.

It was in El Clasico against Real Madrid at Camp Nou in March 2007 that Lionel Messi really announced his arrival to the world. He scored a hattrick to help Barcelona earn a 3-3 draw against our great rival. Those goals included a well-taken late equaliser from an excellent Ronaldinho pass. It was the just the first of many times that he has sent me on a lap of celebration around my house. After that game, I remember thinking "This kid could be good". With the benefit of hindsight, a bit of an understatement, don't you think?

Pep Guardiola replaced Frank Rijkaard as coach for the 2008/09 season. It did not take much, if any, time for Pep to realise what a jewel he had at his disposal. Messi quickly made the transition from promising young talent to the key player around which the team was built. That season, "The Trident" of Messi, Samuel Eto'o and Thiery Henry scored exactly 100 goals as the team powered to a Treble triumph of "Copa, Liga y Champions". Messi scored 38 goals in that wonderful season for Barcelona fans. The goals I remember with most fondness were the two goals he scored in 2-6 demolition of Real Madrid at Bernebeu and his rare headed goal in our 2-0 Champions League Final win over Manchester United. Actually, my most memorable goal of that season was Andres Iniesta's late "golazo" to win the UCL Semi Final against Chelsea. But that is another story.

Since that seaon Lionel Messi has continued to amaze and delight Barcelona fans on a regular basis. This would be a never-ending article if I wrote about every piece of Messi brilliance that I have seen. However, there is one game which stands out for me for the joy the magic of Messi brought to Barcelona fans throughout the world. It is the 2010/11 UCL Semi Final 1st Leg against Real Madrid at Bernebeu. He scored both goals in our 0-2 triumph. The first was a routine finish from a cross that was Ibrahim Afellay's greatest moment as a Barcelona player. The second was a brilliant dribble where he beat most of the Madrid team before calmly slotting the ball past Iker Casillas.

Speaking of the 2010/11 Champions League, Messi's go ahead goal in our 3-1 victory in the Final against Manchester United was also fantastic.

I am sure that I speak for Barcelona fans when I say it has been a privilege to watch Lionel Messi play for our team. Hopefully, there are many more years of Messi magic to come. We do have to realise that Messi is human and we cannot expect him to do everything. We all remember Messi's missed penalty against Chelsea earlier this year which probably cost us back-to-back UCLs. In that game, the fact that the rest of the team seemed to be looking only for Messi to turn the tide was just as critical. The team cannot allow itself to rely solely on Lionel Messi as sometimes appears the case.

Lionel Messi is a genius. It could be said that he is the best at his chosen sport that any sportsman has ever been. Maybe, maybe not. I do know that I love watching him play and that every time I do I am reminded of a quote I once read (but can't remember where). "Lionel Messi is the only player in the world who is better in real life than he is on Play Station". Enough said!