May 22, 2008

The demented Spartan child

It's been a horrible season for Barcelona. They broke down and humiliated themselves, particularly as Real Madrid found themselves hoisting the hardware.

There has been one bright spot, however, the emerging greatness of Lionel Messi. Here is Phil Ball, the best English-language writer covering La Liga today (I know, I know), eloquently telling us why he named Messi to his Best XI:

Left midfield: Leo Messi (Barcelona)
He was picked for this spot last season, and although it's not strictly his position it's difficult to say exactly what Messi is - a phrase often used to describe the greats. Well - we know he's the best player in the world, with apologies to Ronaldo lovers, but he's not here for that reason. What has been most impressive about Messi this season has been his sheer will to win, his never-say-die attitude and the silent example he has provided to all around him, many of whom have seemed less than committed to the cause. At times he has run down cul-de-sacs, it's true, but only because there has been a lack of intelligent support. He's hardly had a bad game, and even when he came back from a serious injury, he was immediately running at players again like some sort of demented Spartan child, unacquainted with fear. Sorry to mix the metaphors, but he's also worked like a Trojan. Nice little bloke too, modest and without pretensions. You get the impression that he appreciates the privilege of being a professional footballer, particularly after what he went though as a child. He deserved better this season.

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