Many years from now, when people will look at the Barcelona run of titles from 2009 until who knows when it’ll stop, the names of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol will be an afterthought. Lionel Messi is all that’s going to remain for those not tedious enough to look at the small details, as every match he plays, even when he doesn’t score, serves to strengthen the myth and legend.
Everything in the Champions League draw came down to that one moment, in which Barcelona were in too much trouble to handle it on their own. Xavi made some ridiculous record with the number of accurate passes, but it wasn’t getting the team anywhere. While it s was 0-0, Tito Vilanova could live with his team passing the time, settling for Cesc Fabregas and David Villa as his impotent strike force. Once Javier Pastore scored however, there was no use leaving the best player on the world to rot on the bench.
Seconds after coming onto the pitch, the balance of the match shifted. Messi draws so much attention and focus from not only defenders but from entire teams, making it so that defensive and even attacking midfielders must change the man and area they’re covering, the PSG game-plan re-shuffled, but not in a good way. The first time he made a stride towards the goal, all composure and good sense left the Parisian defense, and a Pedro goal was born.
Sometime after this season is over, it’ll be interesting to look at just how important Lionel Messi was to Barcelona this season. The math isn’t perfect because some of Messi’s 43 goals can be replaced, as we saw in the 5-0 win over Mallorca, but there’s a good chance there would not be any La Liga title if it wasn’t for his 43 goals so far.
In a decade or so, maybe a little bit more, when Messi is no longer an active footballer, maybe then we will truly appreciate his ability, his influence, his charisma, that is different from the usual, noticeable kind. Lionel Messi isn’t a god among mortals, he simply is a footballer the world has never seen before. Someone who influences the match so severely within seconds of coming onto the pitch, even the strongest of defenses can’t avoid the panic and confusion each dribble he begins creates.