The magic of Messi
Guillem Balague praises Lionel Messi and an Espanyol duo who starred in Denmark.
Last Updated: 19/10/07 11:13am
Barcelona are currently having one of those moments where they combine something that has never been seen in world football before: They have the best player in the world 'til now - Ronaldinho - and the best player from now - Lionel Messi.
We are seeing one of those periods when in the future people will say 'when did Messi become the best player in the world?' Well the answer is: the end of last season and the beginning of this season. In fact, since he scored that hat-trick against Real Madrid in that thrilling 3-3 draw last season, he has scored 21 goals in 22 matches, which is unbelievable.
He's getting better - he now defends - he steals on average five or six balls per match. He ends the move - he gives the last pass, can play wide or in the centre. He's got the same speed in his head as he has in his legs. He is the quickest on the pitch and he now scores goals.
Frank Rijkaard, in an exclusive interview for Revista this Tuesday, does say that Messi's amazing form has nothing to do with him. Rijkaard though has helped him succeed - despite the fact that he is a left footed player, Rijkaard plays him on the right-hand side which gives him the possibility of making diagonal runs, coming inside which he would not be able to do if he played on the left-hand side as he is very left-footed.
He's not ego-centric, he links very well with Thierry Henry and he has always got an answer when he is one-on-one with a defender. Not many players go one-on-one anymore and it's wonderful to see.
He also has the right mentality in that he's ambitious - he wants to be the best either playing on his patio at his house or in front of 100,000 people, as Rijkaard tells us in the interview, so watch out for that.
Spain played one of those matches that shows what you are made of against Denmark. They had to get the draw or victory and they won 3-1 - and the key to that victory was the Espanyol players.
It's the first time in the history of the club that Espanyol players are so relevant to the national side.
Because of the injuries to Fernando Torres and David Villa and because Raul won't be called up while Luis Aragones is in charge.
Raul Tamudo was the striker and he scored the first goal - a header, although he's not the tallest - and he was then involved in the second goal with an assist for Sergio Ramos - a fantastic goal made of 28 consecutive passes - that's what Spain is made of. And then the third goal when Albert Riera scored a wonderful strike from outside the box.
I watched the match with Espanyol people - some of the people at the club and we obviously celebrated it big time with some fantastic white wine.
That means that everything is in our hands and we will qualify for Euro 2008. We now know what we have to do and that is to always have Andres Iniesta in the side and always have Cesc and Xavi and pass, pass, pass until we find a chance to score - that's our trademark and will continue to be so.
Sevilla's problems are partly down to the fact that they had a really bad pre-season. There is also the feeling that they've lost it at the back - not just because of Javi Navarro's absence.
Everybody is defending and running a little bit less and they are lacking in confidence. That is something that Juande Ramos will have to manage.
The chairman is saying nothing will happen but one has to wonder if they continue on this slide will he take the big measure of getting rid of the coach? I wonder.If that is the case then Ramos will have time to prepare his next club which I'm pretty sure will be in the Premier League.
Guillem answers your questions...
Hi Guillem, I am curious as to how Chris Coleman is getting along at Real Sociedad, have the fans got behind him? Is his home form good like it was at Fulham? Who has he signed and how have the fans reacted? How is he adapting to the language and culture change? And what type of football is he playing? Adam Ouaddane
GUILLEM REPLIES: I did have the impression that Chris, who gave an interview to the Times, was talking about the going to Real Sociedad as a bit of a stop-gap until a return to the Premier League. He left it very unclear and that was an interview that upset many people in San Sebastien because Real Sociedad is a very historical club that is down in the second division for the first time in 40 years and they thought they deserved a little bit more praise or backing from their new manager. He did find it difficult when he first came in - it wasn't just the language. People didn't respect him that much, I'm sure he will admit that himself, because he wasn't that well known. He was recommended by John Toshack, but maybe that wasn't enough. I had very bad reviews of his first months in charge but, as usual, he's a very stubborn man with clear ideas and he's turned things round. Better knowledge of his squad and the league has helped, of course. He managed to get three victories in four matches until the results started to go a little bad again. I think he will get Real Sociedad back to La Liga and I hope that he decides to stay for a long time in Spain because that will add to his knowledge of the game and it will definitely help him. If he stays for three or four years in Spain then he can return to England with the knowledge of both worlds, like Mourinho, Benitez and Wenger.
Hi Guillem, I have been very impressed with the start of the La Liga season especially the way in which Barcelona have begun along with Messi but I was wondering about the nationality of young Gio dos Santos and which national team he will represent? As a Manchester United fan I am obviously very interested in the progress of Gio especially as Fergie was present at the Camp Nou the other Sunday! Thanks, John, Manchester.
GUILLEM REPLIES: He represents Mexico and is their biggest star already. His father, Cizzinho, was a player and ended up in Mexico. And so Giovani was born there. He looks very much Brazilian but is Mexican and is happy to be so. I think Barcelona are coming round to the idea that they should sell him now as he is gaining fame that will guarantee Barcelona lots of money, but I'm sure Rijkaard will want him to stay because he adds something to the side coming from the bench. Is he a 90 minute man? I don't think he is yet. Will he be the new Messi, as some people are saying? I don think so either, but he is definitely going to be a talented player for the future.
Hey Guillem, I'm sure you've going to get a lot of questions about this kid, but there are rumours going around that Liverpool have signed an Argentine born "wonderkid" named Gerardo Bruna from Real Madrid, using the same loophole that brought Cesc Fabregas to Arsenal. I don't know if it's official yet but can you tell us anything about Bruna? He has been deemed "the next Messi" - which as a Liverpool fan has sent a shiver down my spine as these comparisons are always misleading and impossible to live up to. Can you tell me what type of player he is, how he compares to players like Messi at 16 and if he's got what it takes to make it big? Thanks a million, Micheal Whyte, Ireland.
GUILLEM REPLIES: Bruna the new Messi? I laugh at those things. The new Messi - we're talking about the best player in the world at the moment with some of the qualities that haven't been matched ever. A big tag for Bruna to live up to. I've seen some videos of him - he is a short guy who is very mobile, very quick, runs with the ball well and who can become the new Messi, if you like, but more realistically the new Luis Garcia. But he is definitely useful for the kind of football that Liverpool practices. If he grows into the role and gets a little stronger he could be useful. He's a talent who will develop at a club where he will feel important and with a club who know how to deal with youngsters. But I wouldn't get too excited just yet.