Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Alan Green: Lionel Messi’s the best player I’ve ever seen

Lionel Messi
MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27: Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates after scoring his first goal during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final first leg match between Real Madrid and Barcelona at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on April 27, 2011 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Supporters from Barcelona F.C react as they watch on a big screen the Champions League final soccer match between Manchester United and Barcelona F.C taking place at Wembley Stadium, in Barcelona, Saturday, May 28, 2011. (AP Photo/ Emilio Morenatti)
Supporters from Barcelona F.C react after Barcelona scored as they watch on a big screen the Champions League final soccer match between Manchester United and Barcelona F.C taking place at Wembley Stadium, in Barcelona, Saturday, May 28, 2011. (AP Photo/ Emilio Morenatti)
Supporters from Barcelona F.C react after Barcelona scored as they watch on a big screen the Champions League final soccer match between Manchester United and Barcelona F.C taking place at Wembley Stadium, in Barcelona, Saturday, May 28, 2011. (AP Photo/ Emilio Morenatti)
Manchester United's players stand dejected after the game during the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 28, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Final. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire.
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Eric Abidal of FC Barcelona lifts the trophy after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Manchester United's Ryan Giggs (left) goes to collect his runners up medal during the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 28, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Final. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire.
Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (second from right) and Ji-Sung Park appear dejected after the final whistle during the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 28, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Final. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire.
Manchester United's Javier Hernandez (centre) is consoled by Wayne Rooney as team-mates Rio Ferdinand (left) and Edwin Van der Sar react to defeat, after the final whistle during the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 28, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Final. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Barcelona celebrate at the final whistle during the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 28, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Final. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire.
Barcelona celebrate at the final whistle during the UEFA Champions League Final at Wembley Stadium, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday May 28, 2011. See PA story SOCCER Final. Photo credit should read: Sean Dempsey/PA Wire.
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Sergio Busquets of FC Barcelona (L) battles with Fabio da Silva of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Eric Abidal (R) of FC Barcelona lifts the trophy and celebrates with teammates after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Prince Filipe of Spain applauds as Eric Abidal (R) of FC Barcelona lifts the trophy and celebrates with teammates Victor Valdes (2L) and Xavi (2R) after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Eric Abidal (R) of FC Barcelona lifts the trophy and celebrates with teammates after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Eric Abidal (R) of FC Barcelona lifts the trophy and celebrates with teammates Victor Valdes (2L), Xavi (2R) and Gerard Pique (behind) after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Eric Abidal of FC Barcelona lifts the trophy after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Eric Abidal (R) of FC Barcelona lifts the trophy and celebrates with teammates after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Eric Abidal (R) of FC Barcelona lifts the trophy after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Sir Alex Ferguson manager of Manchester United congratulates Barcelona players on their way to receive his runners up medal during the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Sir Alex Ferguson manager of Manchester United congratulates Barcelona players on their way to receive his runners up medal during the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Manchester United players congratulate Barcelona players on their way to receive their runners up medals during the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Barcelona players celebrate after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Barcelona players celebrate after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Barcelona players celebrate after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Barcelona players celebrate after victory in the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Javier Hernandez of Manchester United shows his dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ryan Giggs (L) and Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United show their dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Luis Nani of Manchester United (R) shows his dejection as the Barcelona players celebrate victory after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Daniel Alves of FC Barcelona (L) battles for the ball with Ryan Giggs of Manchester United during the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United shows his dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United shows his dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United shows his dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. Edwin van der Sar will retire after tonights game. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Paul Scholes of Manchester United shows his dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ryan Giggs (R) and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United show their dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney of Manchester United show their dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United (C) shows his dejection as the Barcelona players celebrate victory after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Josep Guardiola manager of FC Barcelona celebrates after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Sir Alex Ferguson manager of Manchester United (C) shows his dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28: Ryan Giggs (L) and Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United show their dejection after the UEFA Champions League final between FC Barcelona and Manchester United FC at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

There’s always at least one, isn’t there? While the overwhelming majority of callers to ‘6-0-6’ after the Champions League Final, including many gracious Manchester United fans, lauded the performance of Barcelona, along came Owen . . .

“Everybody’s got to stop beating themselves up about this . . . Barcelona aren’t that good . . . they’d struggle in the Premier League . . . they wouldn’t fancy having to play Wolves every week!”

I ask you: what put those ridiculous thoughts into his mind? Was he just trying to wind me up? No, he sounded serious enough as well as being undeniably stupid.

I won’t and never have got into any examination of how good this Barcelona team is relevant to other great sides of the past: whether they’re the best club side there’s ever been. How can you compare eras? Heck, I can barely remember the Real Madrid that won the first five European Cups (I was only eight at the time of the Hampden Park victory in 1960) and the wonderful Ajax team of the 70s registers scarcely more in my mind.

Can we not simply enjoy Guardiola’s side for what they undoubtedly are, the best team on the planet right now? And is there any serious doubt that Lionel Messi is the best player around?

Though, on the little Argentine, I’ll go further. I DO remember Maradona and, before him, Cruyff and Beckenbauer, Best and Pele. For me, Messi is the greatest player that I’ve ever had the privilege to see ‘in the flesh’, fortunately at least four or five times a season, and there is NOTHING in my work as a commentator that brings me more pleasure than watching him play.

I wonder if, seeing Messi so belittle his team on Saturday night, Sir Alex Ferguson still rates Ronaldo more.

Considering how forcefully the United manager assured us that all the necessary lessons had been learned from the experience of Rome 2009, I couldn’t help feeling he was spectacularly wrong. Three-one was a barely accurate scoreline to reflect Barcelona’s superiority.

And surely Sir Alex knows he has yet more — he’s well capable of doing it — major re-structuring to do with his team despite his dismissal of criticism levelled at United over the past season? I repeat: they are deserved champions of England but they are also ‘ordinary’ champions, a considerable distance behind Barcelona. To be fair, everybody else is as well.

The Catalans set so many examples for others to follow but a principal one is that they draw so many of their incredibly talented players from their own region and then nurture them. Of the team that played on Saturday night only Mascherano and Villa cost any substantial money to ‘import’ and, remember, though Messi is from Argentina he’s been with them since he was 13. I would contrast what Barcelona do with the profligacy of clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City.

And a final thought, if you’d been able to have those Barcelona players at the age of 12 or 13, like Messi, and put them through ANY top flight English club, would they have been ‘schooled’ to play in the way they did at Wembley? Not a chance.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nightlife galleries

More

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre