Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Ryo Miyaichi - Close up

Close up? No, this isn't a close up personal account of the life that Ryo lives, as this piece that I am about to write is all about Arsenal's new wonder-kid - Ryo Miyaichi. There has recently been prolonged talk from Arsenal  supporters stating how disappointing they have been with Arsene Wenger's activity in the transfer market, with reserve player, Carl Jenkinson, and the highly-rated Gervinho being their only signings as far. However, Arsene Wenger could still spend around £25 million on a star player, but the best summer business for Arsenal could be sealing the work permit of Ryo Miyaichi.

After signing a professional contract in the later stages of January, Arsene aimed to build on the club's long-term relationship with Feyenoord, and thereby sent Ryo out on-loan to gain the experience of a footballer whilst playing the 'right' way in the Eredivisie. It turned out be a shrewd move by Wenger, as the youngster went on to have a successful spell at the De Kuip. He started his first game against Vitesse, with the Feyenoord manager, Mario Been, instantly showing a liking to the Japanese youngster. Ryo had made an excellent impression in his first game, which resulted in a 1-1 draw. But there was more to shout about after his quite tremendous 90 minutes; he has been named man of the match, in which was a significant prize for a player with no past experience of playing professional football.

That game was seen as the internal working model for Ryo and his adopted club, for the time-being. In other words, it means that the basis was set, and that his standard of performances should remain high, with Feyenoord also showing faith in Ryo - a two way process. Did his performances remain to a high level? That would be an astounding yes! Not only did Ryo turn into a star in Holland due to his tremendous talents, but he worked hard for his place in the team and has now been rewarded for his work-ethic.

He scored his first goal for Feyenoord against Heracles, with the second goal in the game also being created by him. But arguably his best, and most complete performance came at the De Kuip when Willem II visited. Not only was this yet another special performance from Ryo - scoring two goals, and having two assists to his name - but his ability to turn the match on its head was admirable (Feyenoord was a goal down before winning 6-1 quite comfortably). That is exactly what would be welcomed at Arsenal - a player who will be able to use his initiative and go on to win a game when nobody else is seemingly shining.

Enough of the facts, and on to his true ability. Did you know that the Feyenoord supporters used to call him "Ryodinho" with the "inho" most likely coming from a Brazilian background, hence being a compliment? Ryo's skills dazzled in Holland, and so did his pace. He isn't the type of player who'll need to perform several movements with his feet ("flip-flap" etc) to beat his man. Ryo has the raw ability to beat his man with a quick turn of pace and drive down the line. His tendency to stay out on the touchline, will add a new dimension of width to the Arsenal attack, which is a must need along with his pace.

Another convincing attribute of Ryo is his capability of turning up in the right place at the right time - getting into goal-scoring positions. Some people say that it is just natural, but I beg to differ. It's all about the movement of a player and interpreting when to get into the right positions when needed.  Finally, to end his great attacking potential, I'd also like to add in that Ryo Miyaichi's delivery is top notch, and he can deliver them in various styles - such as whipping the ball in at head height, floating it in, and even producing a hard low cross which can be difficult to execute. Add his attacking attributes together, and it seems as if Arsenal have one pure offensive talent on their hands.

Now to his defensive game? An offensive player with a defensive game? What is going on here? Well, Ryo may be as skillful and delightful to watch as many of the world's best players, but his defensive work needs to be appreciated. Throughout his successful spell at Feyenoord, it became apparent to the audience watching that Ryo had true grit. He would lose the ball up the field, and then chase the opponent until he had got the ball back in his possession again. Its similar to Lionel Messi. An offensive player who has just scored 50+ goals a season , and looking for more, loses the ball, and chases down the opposing attacker as he attempts to get the ball back. It's terrific work, and his non-lazy approach will be great to see at the Emirates.

Anything he could improve on? In my personally opinion, the only flaw that Ryo has is that his final ball can be inconsistent. Not to a great extent, but inconsistent nonetheless. There are times where he can put in sumptuous balls with the strikers licking their lips, but there were quite a few times this season where the ball didn't reach its target, and I'm certain that the coaches at Arsenal will groom him well in this area.

Overall, Ryo can become a special, special player, capable of reaching the great heights of football - perhaps even on the world stage. He has the talent and effort to do so, and I'm more than sure that he'll become vital to Arsenal sooner rather than later. Ryo is only 18 years of age, and is still rather raw, but Arsenal can take advantage over his rawness and let the hungry youngster run riot in the Premier League. A work permit is still a problem, but I believe that his talent should do all the talking in welcoming him to English football.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

How do you break the stranglehold of Barca and Madrid?

The biggest clubs in the world. Immortals of the game, on and off the pitch. They continuously put fear in the eyes of players, but also club owners. Who else could do such a thing? Who else could boast players of a magnificent pedigree, above all the rest of on Earth? Who else could spend the majority of the season approximately 20 points ahead of the nearest competition in 3rd place? The clue is already in the title - only Real Madrid and Barcelona could achieve such a mean feat. Only those two teams could stop the likes of Valencia and Villarreal from acclaiming the prestigious La Liga title (which currently, seems quite impossible).

What is stopping the likes of Valencia and Villarreal from winning the title? Well, part of the reason is quite obvious, isn't? The players! Real are able to count on Ronaldo, Ozil, Benzema and  Casillas to fire them to victory, with Barca also being capable of producing the very best with Messi, Xavi and Iniesta plying their trade in Catalonia. It is/was a tough ask for Villarreal to rely on their hitman, Giuseppe Rossi, to produce the goods (with Valero also having a terrific season). It is/was also tough for Valencia to expect players (very good players) of the calibre of Mata and Banega to fight the "Big Two" for major honours. Also, with both players looking at a likely exit, Valencia can expect a troublesome time next season, albeit, not in crisis mode, which has already been spouted about. 

Barcelona and Real Madrid have arguably the best managers in the world, and with the players that they currently occupy it is the near impossible task to overcome them. They are fitter than the rest, they are more tactically astute than the rest, and they are technically superior to the rest. That superiority is also shown off the pitch with the excessive revenue that the two ‘Super Giants’ share. Forget about stadium revenue, and instead think about the broadcasters who give the pair huge sums of money to show the entertainers on their channel. Their TV rights, compared to the inferior teams in La Liga are mesmerizingly astonishing. It is known that there has been a political dispute regarding this issue, so that the TV rights are shared somewhat equally amongst the 20 teams in the division, but I think we all know that the proposal is a little impropable.

Barca and Real are different to the rest, and everyone knows that. The ‘others’ can’t compete with them as their income is significantly less than the two biggest clubs in the league. If there were to be equal TV rights (including equal commercial deals) then the long lasting dispute will last even longer. Cash-strapped teams like Valencia see it as an opportunity to fund their new stadium, and to decrease their debt, but who else could argue against Barcelona and Real Madrid? The country needs them, and the pair needs to the country - well, the government. If they want big money loans for big money signings then they’d happily be given it, as in the long term it will only benefit the money generated from winning major competitions, such as the Champions League.

Unfortunately money is taking over the game, and there is no doubt across the globe that Barca and Real love it. What about FIFA’s Financial Fair Play, which is due to be installed any time soon? Please! Are you telling me that Platini and co can stop Barca and Real from producing enticing football, whilst stopping luring people into their clubs with the world class players they have, hence halting the money flow? Of course not.

Reducing income from TV revenue and commercial deals isn’t a realistic idea, nor are the likes of Villarreal, Valencia and Sevilla welcoming players of the highest pedigree.

So, whilst the standard of the football will remain sky high for the foreseeable future, there is the unfortunate feeling that the competition won’t mirror the football. I do sincerely hope that Valencia can win their first title since 2004, or Villarreal pulling something magical out of the hat, but it is far-fetched to think in such a manner.

Here’s hoping for a competitive La Liga next season to mirror the usual fascinating football.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Arsenal insulted by Barcelona

"Sigh, not again!". These words aren't only of mine, but they relate to the lions-share of Arsenal supporters of whom are evidently exhausted by Barcelona's tireless pursuit of Cesc Fabregas. Never mind what others say, Cesc truly is a great player who leads by example on - and off - the pitch. We all know by now that Cesc has his mind set on moving to Barcelona in the future. However, putting all 'rumours' aside, Cesc's work-ethic over the last six years has been nothing short of word-class. Not only is he one of the most productive players in the world, but his hard work has been outstanding, which makes him the player he is today.

Since moving to Arsenal at the age of 16, in 2003 from Catalonia, Barcelona have been keen to sign the player they let go all those years ago. They feel that he belongs to the best club in the world, and that it is his - and their- duty to allow him to work alongside the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi on a regular basis (by joining Barca). That is all understandable - Barcelona want to sign a Spaniard, who has family in Catalonia, and is currently one of the best midfielder's in the world. Fair enough, right? No, not a chance.

Barcelona have been outright embarrassing in their handling of Fabregas, and Arsenal in particular. They have constantly ran their mouth away in the media begging Arsenal to release Cesc Fabregas from his "hell in London". Professional? I think not. Imagine Newell's Old Boys telling the press at every single opportunity that Messi has Newell's Old Boys' "DNA", and that he must join back in the near future. That would create havoc at the Nou Camp, complete havoc. However, as long as the player doesn't (currently) play for the European Champions, then it is OK to negotiate in such a fashion.

Which employee of Barcelona hasn't spoken about Cesc in the media? Arsenal have more important things to worry about, such as investing in quality to maintain a strong title challenge for next season, but Arsene won't be able to achieve that with Barcelona creating a huge shadow over the Londoners. As I said before, it is totally understandable that they want to 're-sign' Fabregas, but they'll surely be in a better situation if they handle the negotiations with class - and not by mouthing off to the media explaining why Cesc 'wants' to join to the club.

Today, it has been reported that Barcelona had a £27 million fee rejected for Cesc Fabregas. An insult. A total insult to Arsenal, and their captain. The Spaniard is an elite player, and only Iniesta and Xavi stop him from being recognized as the best midfielder on the planet. There have been players of inadequate technical ability going for higher or similar prices. In my opinion, the Arsenal captain is worth £50 million, and if he were to be English then that price tag would have been been reported instead of the low £27 million insult that Arsenal received last night. Cesc isn't just going to disappear. Barcelona have to pay a premium price to get their man, and with Sandro Rosell not willing to make a compromise, it seems highly likely that Fabregas will remain at Arsenal for next season. And why not? He does have a contract, and doesn't necessarily want to quit Arsenal, albeit frustrated.

I can see negotiations going on for a few more weeks, and it'll certainly frustrate Arsenal supporters, but the bond of Fabregas and Arsenal is too strong to break right now - especially with such an incredibly awful bid being offered.

Note: Sorry for the rant-esque article today - I've been meaning to write this for quite some time with the horrible manner in which Barcelona have treated Arsenal.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Can Italian Football be revitalized?

Match-fixing. Relate this term with Russian football at will, but you all know where I'm heading with this post, and it does not concern the Russians - much to my fortune. Match-fixing is again circulating Italy with former Lazio legend, Beppe Signori, being one of 16 allegedly involved in a controversial betting scandal, where players were being paid to throw games. It's surprising, nonetheless outright stupid, that this crime is to be brought on Italian football yet again. It is at present a dying breed of football, and the accusations will no doubt enhance the rapid decline of the Italian game which is to prove a massive distraction to Serie A, of whom are desperate to show their worth again in Europe.

It isn't the first time there has been match-fixing declarations in Italy, as you only have to go back to 2006 to witness the event that changed Italian football ever since - the Calciopoli. It all came around when transcripts of recorded telephone conversations were published in a newspaper of then Juventus general manager, Luciano Moggi, of whom influenced the appointments of referees during the 2004-2005 season, which was a genuine concept to help the team win the Scuddeto, in which they did in the 04/05 season, and in the 05/06 season (with both titles being stripped off the Champions). Juve were later relegated to Serie B, along with a 30-point deduction, which is absolutely justified and deserved. Lazio and Fiorentina were also demoted for their part in the scandal, with AC Milan continuing in the top flight, despite their 15-point deduction.

Overall, it was a sorrow sight, not only for the clubs involved, but for Italian football as a whole. Not many football supporters have seen such a thing in the modern game, and the fans of those four clubs were made to pay the price for their club's incompetence and idiocy.

Italian football hasn't been the same since, no doubt about it. Sure, it is still a highly recommended league to watch, and boast great players who are among the best in Europe, but it just isn't the same anymore. Gone are the days where players wanted to play in Italy, and only Italy. Think back to the 80's, and some part of the 90's - all the top players wanted to play in Italy; Laudrup, Matthaus, Maradona, van Basten and many, many more. It was the league to play in, where the players would move a step up technique wise, and learn how to be an appropriate professional footballer - the Italian way. 

What's the attitude now towards Italy? Not very good, apparently. Speak to a top player in today's game, and they'll say that they want to be competing in England and Spain, ultimately the two best leagues in the world. Why not Italian football? Again, it's just not the same. Brilliant players like Pato, Cassano, Di Natale, Montolivio will be able to grace any league in the world with the utmost ease, but the football being displayed isn't as fine and quick-paced as English, or Spanish football. Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho were brilliant last season, and rightly deserved their status as European Champions, but apart from them not many teams from Italy managed to make others sweat. In this seasons Champions League, we had a fifth placed team in Tottenham, beating Italy's future Champions, AC Milan, and nobody will forget a mid-table Schalke team thrashing Inter at the San Siro (and reaching the semi-finals).

You just didn't see that 20-30 years ago, but unfortunately Italian football is in free-fall, and may be tough to pick up. What can they do to change our opinion of their game? 

Well, they are doing little by little as it seems. Next season, we'll be able to have a look at Napoli, and perhaps Udinese, in the Champions League, which is a welcome sight after years of watching Roma and Juventus participate in the competition. They can get back on track with competition, at the top and bottom of the league, but they must act on the political board-room structure which is detrimental to the success of football, and improving their standard of the game to repeat the glorious success of Inter last season. If Italian football find their feet, as well as amending their performances in International tournaments, then we'll see a new force in Europe- which is exactly what we want.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Real: Making the most of the summer

It's not every too often where we see a manager overthrow a even more powerful member of the club - but it has certainly taken place at Real Madrid, and with Jose Mourinho in charge it was never impossible, never. Jorge Valdano, the Director General and Presidential Aide, was the dominant man at Los Blancos alongside club President Florentino Perez. Valdano could do no wrong. The previous managers had to listen to him, and the staff had to listen to him - the so-called 'Galacticos' produced in Perez's first, and second term, were brought in by Jorge. Who would stop him. Nobody surely? Step in Jose Mourinho. He was a controversial choice, but a good choice concurrently. Just days before he signed for Real he had won the eminent Champions League with Inter Milan, a trophy most correlated with Real Madrid, yet had failed to elapse the round of 16 since 2004. Something had to be done to end the drought, and in came the influential Portuguese manager who had the experience and aura to compete at the highest level.

The first sign of a rift had occurred in the summer of 2010, when Valdano went and brought Pedro Leon from Getafe without Mourinho taking notice, and  it is still known publicly that the pair don't get along with Mourinho being unhappy with the way Leon has conducted himself in an 'arrogant' mannerism. Not only did it happen with Pedro Leon, but it is also evidently known that Jose Mourinho far from being happy with the signing of Sergio Canales, and how he has fared in his first season at the Bernabeu. Valdano and Mourinho were never going to get along, and it hit it's peak in January where Jose was desperate to sign a CF, despite Jorge Valdano stating that they weren't in need of one. It was a classic example of manager vs boardroom, and expectedly it was Mourinho who came out on top, and managed to snap up Emmanuel Adebayor from Manchester City on loan - a move which brought a flurry of goals.

So why was Jorge Valdano sacked? Mourinho. Without Mourinho, Jorge doesn't get sacked. It isn't perhaps the most logical way of thinking about the circumstances, but when Mourinho signs for a club, he expects the power to be held in his hands. He doesn't want a board-room member, who has never won all those glistening trophies abroad making the key decisions at the club. Jose was brought in to bring the Champions League back to Madrid, and apparently so, it wasn't possible with Jorge at the helm. Perez couldn't afford to sack Jose Mourinho, for sporting issues, and financial ones. When Mourinho wants to go, he goes, and there was no way Florentino Perez was going to risk losing such a highly-rated manager.

Now that he has the majority of the power at the club, his method is simple. He wants the team to be his team. He doesn't want opinions from the hierarchy of the club on what tactics, and what players should be brought in. He wants to manage on his own, and will manage on his own - which is similar to what he has done in the past. That is now achievable with Valdano out of the way.

So what does the summer bring for Madrid. I won't say that they been spending big, as yet, but they are certainly getting down to business quickly, which will suit Mourinho's process of bonding the team together. Nuri Sahin, formerly of Borussia Dortmund, has been brought in for a relatively small fee in contrast to his great abilities. Hamit Altintop has been brought in as a utility player (on a free transfer), who'll fill the gaps in the team when needed. Then there is the former Espanyol winger, Jose Callejon, who had an excellent season in Catalonia. All signings so far have been low-key, but overall impressive.

More signings are on the way. Galactico signings! The electric Portuguese full-back, Fabio Coentrao, is on his way from Benfica for a fee near the region of £22 million. There is also the much talked about Sergio Aguero, who has confirmed that he wants to leave the Estadio Vincente Calderon. There are several teams who would benefit from the signing of Aguero - Juventus, Chelsea, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Barcelona - but it seems as if his heart lies with Atletico's noisy neighbours, Real Madrid.

These two signings are bound to be complete within the next week, or two, but with Real Madrid looking to remain active for the rest of the summer, there is one transfer in which will be bigger than the rest, no matter the price. Yes, you got, shipping Jorge Valdano out - Jose Mourinho's own summer transfer!

Monday, 30 May 2011

Did Man United's naive tactics prove to be their downfall?

I'm sure I can go on for hours about Barcelona's immaculate execution of the Champions League final on Wednesday night - but then again, I already have done. There has been a lot said of the way the Spanish Champions conducted themselves against Manchester United - forbidden was the diving, and the play-acting nonsense, and in came the beauty that we so often associated the Catalan's with. They warranted their medals with that enthralling performance, and there was no argument about it, but I'd like to have a little look at United's display too.

There were people who had the basic feeling that they were simply out-played, which was right.  There were also people who thought that United were brave. Wrong. In what way were United imprudent at Wembley? I'll give them credit for giving Barcelona a decent contest for the opening 15 minutes, but apart from that they genuine failed to show their true colours and could hardly get a kick throughout the 90 minutes. This season we saw Real Madrid and Arsenal fall at the hands of Barcelona, with both teams losing marginally. They were closer to beating Barca than United, yet the word 'bravery' never entered the mind of many people.

Yes, I think we can all recognize that Sir Alex Ferguson installs a winning mentality into his players, and that they never give up until the final whistle (perhaps even beyond that), and we have given them great acclaim for that. However, just because we have been presented with bold attitude throughout the course of the season, it doesn't necessarily mean that Man United were 'brave' in getting beat by the better side. I'm sure Alex Ferguson won't be boasting about their bravery for too long, as he'll be planning on a way to beat them next season.

Moving on, I believe there was a massive factor which played into the hands of Barcelona - the 4-4-2 that United set out to play. It was naive of Sir Alex to deploy such a tactic against a team who particularly favours when the formation is played against them. The United manager decided to play Carrick and Giggs in the center, who were going to go up against the trio of Xavi, Messi and Iniesta. Neither of the pair were mobile and dynamic enough to compete with dancing feet that they engrossed. It's easier to say than do, but maybe if Mr Ferguson applied a 4-2-3-1, or 4-5-1, then it would have suffocated the magician named Lionel Messi who played the role orchestrator, along with his colleagues. In the 4-4-2/4-4-1-1, there were two banks of four which was easily surpassed with the Argentine playing between the two lines. It was all too easy for the Spaniards, and with the bull-dog that is Ji Sung Park playing out on the left instead of having his robust ability in the center allowed Xavi and Iniesta to have all the freedom in the world. Playing a midfield trio of Carrick (playing near to the role of a sweeper), Anderson and Park would have asphyxiated Barca's usual tika-taka approach.

Giggs had a blossoming 6 months before the final in the middle of the park, and shone there against the likes of Chelsea and Schalke, but Barcelona is a completely different animal, and the Welshman didn't have the endurance to keep up with them. This is why I felt it was strangely naive of Ferguson to do such a thing against easily the best team in the world, by playing him in the middle, against quicker and more intelligent players, alongside a similar player in Carrick. The partnership of Hernandez and Rooney was working well, as was the midfield pairing of Giggs and Carrick, but Sir Alex was ingenuous is trying to attack Barcelona, which just doesn't work, barring the odd couple of times. United don't have the talent to beat Barca at their own game, and in thinking that they could proved to be their downfall.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Forget about the comparisons; he is a genius!

The term 'world-class' is being used far too loosely today. I often hear people portray a player as being 'world-class' after only a few successful months, in a spell which they apparently set the football nation alight. I have the freedom to state my opinion, and they have the freedom to state their opinion - but what I don't apprehend is people suggesting that a player is consistently playing to the highest standard (being world-class), yet they'll say so to a similar degree of a player who shines for 3 months out of 9. For example there is Gareth Bale, who had an effulgent period at Tottenham Hotspurs this season where he was setting an example to the rest of the Premier League, and this unsurprisingly led to assumptions that he was this 'world-class' British performer that the country had longed for. He later went on to win the highly ambiguous, yet prestigious, PFA award after going through a spell of ordinary displays.

Bale is a fabulous player, and I don't intend to use him for my argument to bash him on his head, but he is a key example to my point. The Welshman had a ravishing first half to the season, but his lack of consistency and overall talent refrained me from thinking that he was performing on the same wavelength to Ronaldo or Xavi. The two I named - Ronaldo and Xavi - have the endurance and capability to produce displays of such inventiveness and lust throughout the whole season, therefore they are 'world-class' players, because not only can they do it for one season, but they do it every single year. This, mind, doesn't only go for Bale, but this has also been the issue with the likes of Forlan, Ribery and Nasri, of whom have been named 'world-class' players countless times, yet aren't to that standard yet.

I can name several 'world-class' players currently plying their trade in Europe. There is Samuel Eto'o, Iniesta, Xavi, Fabregas, Ronaldo, Villa, Lucio, and many more. Why do I believe these players are in that bracket? The reason why is because they have been sparkling for many years, and show no sign of slowing down either.

Over last few season there has been endless debating on Lionel Messi. You know what I mean - Is he the best player ever? How long can he keep this standard up? 'This guy' is as good as Messi! Ronaldo, Ronaldo, Ronaldo! Can he cut it in a rainy night at Stoke?

There is no doubt that football supporters will feel the need to question why the Argentinian is that good, but in preference to those questions, why don't we just admit that he is the best player that we have seen for a very, very long time (if not ever that is). Earlier on this season Bale was compared with Lionel Messi. Yes, I repeat, Bale was compared with the best player in the world. Saying such things is reckless and utter nonsense. Why compare a player to a genius triple the player. You don't need to look at Messi's stats of having scored 53 goals in 55 games, and assisting 24 goals, to convince people that he is a living God in football, because his performances over the last three seasons has been nothing short of miracle - not in terms of the unexpected nature of his talent, but in terms of watching a footballer with the talent and humbleness that he occupies.

Ronaldo has been perceived as Messi's greatest rivals for a number of years now. Rival? Not a chance. Messi is undoubtedly the better player, but it's his humility and team - and work - ethic on the pitch that separates them to an even further distance. Last week against Almeria after Ronaldo's shot was blocked off the line with Adebayor following up to score, the Portuguese forward decided to wave his arm in disappointment of the fact that he missed a great chance, and that his team-mate managed to get the goal. That will never be the case with Lionel Messi. He doesn't play for himself - like Ronaldo. His goal-scoring record may advocate to our thinking that he was selfish, but he plays for the team, and that's a major reason why his already highly thought of talents has been boosted.

Xavi and Iniesta are fascinating players, who has the task of supplying the likes of Messi with delicious balls delicately put through the stubborn wall of a defense. The pair, and the underrated Busquets, has enhanced Messi's talents, but thinking that his talents has been created by the playmakers of the Barcelona side is absurd. Messi won't lose his footballing ability without them because he is more than that. He is the best player of his generation because he had the talent and determination to get there. Sure, they are part of the reason why he has scored so many goals, but it's clearly evident that Messi can create his fair share of goals too.

The great Diego Maradona. People say that Messi won't become the greatest player ever to be seen until he wins the World Cup. People say that he must win the World Cup (basically) all on his own? People say he has to go to a team - similar to Napoli in the 80's - and win them the title? People who say this are wrong. I find it a total myth that Lionel has to prove himself at a World Cup to become a player of that endowment. He effectively carried Barcelona to three Spanish titles, two Champions League titles, and many more. Club football is the main process of the sport, and he has done exceptionally well there, and rightfully earned his status that way.

But can he do it in a cold rainy night at Stoke, though? No, because it must be highly difficult for the best player in the world to perform well at a mid-table Premier League side, isn't? It doesn't rain in Spain either, right?

Then there are the more technical issues that are being focused on after his magical display at Wembley last night. Apparently, in the modern game the better pitches and adjusted rules are helping the Argentine to perform to a higher standard. Have they also mentioned that the pace of the game has rapidly increased, and better, more technical footballers are being brought up very well.

Forbid all the comparisons trying to engage people in thinking that Lionel Messi isn't all that just because of a few minor factors. He is the total footballer, and I've accepted that with open arms. It's a privilege to witness such a magician on a regular basis. Enjoy what Messi has to offer, because we may never see a player like him again!