The Guardian’s Sean Ingle has raised an interesting debate on social media by claiming that Barcelona icon Lionel Messi is, in fact, underrated.
“Despite all the strikes and superlatives, the countless displays of brilliance and the five Ballons d’Or since he made his debut as a runty teen in a friendly against Porto 15 years ago this week, Messi is underrated,” the journalist argues.
He might have a point. Because Messi has been so remarkably good for over a decade now, some football fans have become almost bored of his brilliance.
If Messi dribbles past five players and sticks the ball into the top corner, it barely even makes headlines these days. The Argentina international has made the extraordinary seem completely normal.
When Messi first burst onto the scene during the 2004-05 campaign, it was obvious this was a special player with an incredible gift. That said, few people back then would have predicted the diminutive South American forward would be considered by many as the greatest footballer of all time 10 years later.
One person who did accurately predict the future, though, is Messi’s former Barcelona teammate Samuel Eto’o.
The Cameroonian striker, speaking on the new ’Take The Ball, Pass The Ball’ documentary, still remembers what he told ex-Juventus midfielder Patrick Vieira ahead of a Gamper pre-season tournament match in 2005.
“I told him one day it would seem like every player who came before Messi was playing a different sport,” Eto’o is quoted as saying by the Guardian.
Imagine hearing that before kick-off about some 5ft 6in teenager. Vieira, one of Europe’s best midfielders at the time, must have chuckled to himself at the audacity of Eto’o’s claim.
By full-time, though, Messi left Vieira in no doubt over his talent and potential.
As this video shows, Messi had Vieira on toast that night…
Fabio Capello was the Juve manager at the time and the Italian coach was amazed by what he’d just witnessed.
“In my entire life I have never seen a player of such quality and personality at such a young age, particularly wearing the ‘heavy’ shirt of one of the world’s great clubs,” he said of Messi, per Goal, after full-time.
“That guy can do whatever he wants with the ball. It’s impressive winning a world youth title this summer, but this was outstanding – this was playing with men, not against kids his own age.”
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