Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Anthological derby by Messi

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Messi has fallen off the Ballon d’Or podium and even Pelé ignores him — “he only shoots with one leg, he has a dribble and he doesn’t head well” — when asked for a comparison with Maradona.

For propaganda purposes, he must be an expired poster and, when he does not win the Champions League or the World Cup, he is considered a minor footballer against Modric, Cristiano, Griezmann and Mbappé. The feeling in the market is that Messi is less Messi. Right now he is listed as the fifth best player in the world according to the list of France Football. The voters, and the administrators, forget the day to day, the days of the League, the qualifying phases and the derbies like the one in Cornellà-El Prat. Messi is due to those who like football, to those who go to the field and to those who don’t get up from the sofa when the television is on, and not to those who award the prizes, repeatedly looking for his successor and fearing what will become of Barça without 10. Maybe he doesn’t retire, or retires at 39 like Di Stéfano, mostly because today at 31 he’s an outstanding hero for Barcelona.

There is no better entertainment at the moment than attending to the evolution of Messi, who reinvents himself and vindicates himself when they announce his fall, a gigantic figure in a derby that was announced to be more even and close than ever and turned out to be an excellent monologue from 10, a relief in LaLiga, described as tedious and uncertain due to the irregularity of Barça, Madrid and Atlético. The uncertainty will depend above all on Messi, the footballer who invariably gives meaning and identity to Barcelona’s game.

Absent Arthur, Valverde insists with Arturo Vidal, an apparently difficult player to fit into any version of Barça. It happens that the team no longer necessarily joins the pass, which requires players with a good foot and a good head, but the coach often prefers players with a lot of leg and a big heart, midfielders who press hard like the Chilean and wingers of the stature of Dembélé, headline ahead of the waning Coutinho. The debate is in any case less when Luis Suárez reappears. No one appreciates the presence of the Uruguayan more than Messi because the figure of the false 9 disappears. The man from Rosario prefers to hide behind the Uruguayan and indulges in transition or high-pressure football that the Barcelona coach’s training proposes.Messi’s accelerations broke a Espanyol that was covered with a defensive midfielder like Víctor Sánchez replacing the offensive Granero while Sergio García was waiting on the bench. The change was interpreted as a message of fear that upset Rubi’s squad. Nor could he find his place Melendo and the injured Hermoso was missing. The ball did not leave the blue and white field and the defense did not close, uneasy about the insistent harassment from the opponent and a day that was more surprised at set pieces, now by a specialist like Messi.

The Argentine put the leather standing on the edge of the area in the left corner of Diego López’s goal. The parable that the ball described after a shot that was more precise than strong turned out to be impossible for the Espanyol goalkeeper. No one could stop Messi, neither on set pieces nor on the run, as was also noted in the 0-2. He double-stumbled the Argentine and, when he seemed dejected, he deepened towards the right side, where only Dembélé appeared. The Frenchman cut with his left foot and placed the ball with his right foot at the end of Diego López’s goal.

Leo, by land, sea and air

Unstoppable in attack, Messi even made a difference as a defender when he stole the ball to make it 0-3, scored by Luis Suárez with the help of the blue and white goalkeeper, clumsy in the rejection, after a very good pass from Dembélé. There were no more goals until the second half because the wood returned up to three shots, including a header from Messi, omnipresent on a pitch that was usually bad at the RCDE Stadium.

Barca football flowed around Messi and even the most complicated pieces fit into the team, in the case of Rakitic, positioned as inside left so that Vidal could act on the right. The retouching that did not work in Eindhoven came to fruition at the RCDE Stadium. Asphyxiated by the Barcelona push and run over by Marc Roca, Espanyol repeatedly lost the ball, submitted in short and long, only aired by the sides and by a cross to the far post that did not find Ter Stegen’s goal.Not even the break, nor the forced substitution round tempered Messi’s voracity, which he repeated from set pieces with an excellent shot to put the final 0-4. There are already 20 Messi goals against Espanyol, more than any player in history, decisive for understanding the Barca hierarchy in LaLiga. The game fell on the blue and whites since he appeared on the 10th. The fans were not prepared for an exhibition like the Argentine’s, but rather they were waiting for a balanced match, the possibility of finally defeating Barcelona in Cornellà-El Prat.

The expectations were unfounded and Rubi’s boys chained their fourth consecutive defeat after a start to the championship that brought them to the gates of the lead held by Barcelona. Nothing came out for Espanyol. He couldn’t even claim the goal of honor because the VAR canceled Duarte’s shot that ended up in Ter Stegen’s net. The derby was so uneven that it even gave the impression that Piqué had not played. It reached Barça with Messi, a gift for those who understand football as a party on a weekday and not just as a gala officiated by FIFA with Pelé.

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