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Greatest ever? You must be joking…
And that ladies and gentlemen, is why Lionel Messi will never be the greatest footballer ever. Heck, in my opinion he isn’t even the greatest of his generation (that would be C Ronaldo).
Everything that he has achieved, has been in a Barcelona shirt, playing for quite possibly the greatest club side ever. Basically, he continues to play in an ‘all-star world 11’, which has always been set up to best utilise his exceptional talents. I assume, playing in a league where practically half the teams were broke and simply made up the numbers also helped.
Now don’t get me wrong, he still is a magnificent footballer and ONE of the greats, but the way he has simply chickened out from national duty is hilarious. It wasn’t even the case of playing for a crap side as the Argentina team is overflowing with world-class footballers who, like Messi, have spectacularly underachieved.
He will in all probability, end his footballing career with Barcelona, without even bothering to test himself out elsewhere in the world. Here’s hoping Ronaldo somehow drags Portugal to Euro glory and ends the debate once and for all!
Rahber (He really would be sh*t for Stockport) India
No, he already is the best ever…
Before everyone begins weighing in on Messi’s ‘retirement’, let’s get a few things straight.
He hasn’t retired from international football. He – and a few of his teammates – are strong arming an inept federation into reform. He will wear the powder blue and white stripes again.
This ‘retirement’ doesn’t rule him out of ‘best ever’ calculations. Why? Because he already is the best ever. This decision hasn’t conceded that title to Pele and Maradona, who were obviously both superb players. Why? Let us finally acknowledge that the best standard of football, and therefore the biggest challenge, is no longer the World Cup. It’s the Champions League.
He’s got four of those. He scored in two of the finals. He scores everywhere against everyone. And he will have another chance to win the World Cup when he announces a ‘shock’ return to international football a few months prior to Russia.
But really, so what if he doesn’t win a World Cup. Does it make his frankly ridiculous achievements and countless records any less remarkable?
If the end game of this decision wasn’t so telegraphed you could accuse Messi of petulance and ask if he needed a Snickers.
Is Messi cursed?
The fact that Messi has been to four major finals and lost all of them makes for startling reading. With such a great record of success in club football, you would think that he would have a better record at international level. Losing the World Cup Final and two Copa America finals three years in a row is grim and so he decided to turn his back on his country (that’s a Messi hat-trick for you). But that is the wrong decision because it was made when emotions were still raw after yet another final in which he was the bridesmaid and not the bride. That begs the question, is Messi cursed? Is he destined forever to live in the shadow of Diego Maradona as the greatest Argentinian player ever? Looking at Messi’s record at international tournaments, it’s hard to disagree.
Keg Baridi (Now we can end the argument between Maradona and Messi) Nairobi, Kenya
England: Just not a tournament team
Germany and Belgium’s performance shows how professional teams need to approach tournaments.
Any tournament winning team needs to be able to play in different gears, and have the tactical nous to know when to apply which.
There has been very little hue and cry in the other major countries about their team’s group stage form as they see it as means to an end.
England fans have gone crazy about England’s form in the group. These are not matches where England should have been playing at high tempo for 90 minutes but their inability to kill any of the games meant they were playing all in for 90 minutes in all three. Good on Hodgson to rotate and freshen up the squad.
I won’t be surprised if England players are right up there at the top in the statistics of miles run and ground covered. This is on the back of a season without a winter break where some players have played over 50 games. No wonder Lallana and Kane look knackered.
English players do themselves no favour but pressing individually and bursting a lung to jump into tackles rather than pressing as a team and looking to recover the ball.
As brilliant as Dier has been, he must be exhausted and he’s bound to make a mistake sometime, in his position that could really cost England.
The fans need to relax, let the players relax, let them play at a lower tempo and be trained to kick it up when they need be. Not run yourself into the ground each match.
The Roy of the rovers stuff is not as effective in modern football as much as a well-drilled unit like Germany or Italy where everyone has a job and they know what that is.
England need to relax against Iceland. This team has enough quality to see this match through. Don’t play 90 minutes on full throttle so much so that even if they qualify they are basically too tired the next match and get easily knocked off.
Germany, Spain and Italy play each match to win the tournament, England play each match to win the match, this is why they don’t win tournaments.
Even the Wales team play a better tactical game than England. England simply relies on grit, passion and moments of genius for victory. Fortune favours the brave but hardworking people make their own fortune.
As always England, great quality players, sh*t team.
Shehzad Ghias, mufc
The difference between Ireland and France
Fantastic effort by our boys but odds were always stacked against us. That said, it’s amazing how far hard work and determination gets you, but alas class always wins out in the end. But overall, the key difference between the teams was that Keogh and Duffy thought and reacted like English Championship players, whereas Griezmann thinks and reacts like a Champions League player.
Neil (AVFC), Dublin
Ireland: An actually glorious exit
After Italia ’90 every time I took a penalty I was David O’Leary.
After USA ’94 every time I scored a volley or lobbed a keeper – all twice that it happened – I was Ray Houghton.
And after Euro 2016 there will be countless kids up and down the country pretending to be Robbie Brady. Or Wes Hoolahan. Or Jeff Hendrick. Or Shane Long. Or… Or… Or…
That is the legacy of the Irish performances in this tournament. They played with such pride, determination, heart and no little skill. The Belgium game notwithstanding they were the perfect antithesis to Trap’s dreck in 2012. Performances like those against France and Italy are a great blueprint for young Irish boys and girls who love the awesomeness that is football. Boys and girls who may well grow up to provide this wildly over achieving country of ours with yet more folk heroes, comedy songs and viral videos of unrepentant, rampant soundness.
So take a bow Martin, Roy et al. You bloody well deserve it!
John (Very proud to be Irish), Galway
Why are professional fouls okay but diving not?
I wanted to put a question to the mailbox. Why is diving considered cheating/bad? But a professional foul isn’t? I mean this a genuine question, not just a reaction to the Duffy sending off. In real time, during the France vs Ireland match the commentators were almost praising Duffy for making a the decision to bring down Griezmann, saying it was a necessary sacrifice to prevent 3-1 down and having no hope in coming back. Since the match ended I’ve seen the term ‘noble sacrifice’ used a lot. No one is trying to say it was mistimed or defend the tackle in any way, it’s just accepted that he “had” to stop Draxler. Isn’t the truth that he cheated intentionally to deny a goal-scoring opportunity? The tackle wasn’t mistimed, it was intentional.
Conversely, whenever a player dives (successfully or not) they are very quickly castigated by the press in general and public almost entirely. Even fans of the player don’t try to defend diving, their arguments tend to revolve around minor contact putting the player off-balance or some variation. No one would ever come out and say it was a ‘noble’ attempt at winning a goal-scoring opportunity.
Surely, though, the two scenarios (whilst not identical) can be directly compared; one is cheating to prevent a goalscoring chance, the other to gain one. Can anyone shed some light as to why the general opinion on the two is so different? Does it come down to machismo, hard men putting in challenges? Is it that knowing you’re going to be sent off means a player is aware of the repercussions of a professional foul, whereas diving has the chance to get away without any punishment?
Andy K, AVFC (Long time reader, first time…etc., etc.)
I don’t like the result of that match. Maybe we could start a petition to play it again?
Eoin (France deserved it, no cheating this time) Ireland
Mane more problems
As you point out, another day, another Saint heads to Liverpool. This one however, intrigues me more than any other. Sadio Mane undoubtedly has the ability to change a game in a second, carrying the ball from box to box, driving his team forward and making defenders wish they’d become plumbers instead of Premier League centre backs. However, this would rarely happen on a consistent basis. As we have seen with the likes of Lallana and Lambert, being the hero one match in six or seven is nowhere near good enough for the likes of Liverpool.
Whilst Mane has perhaps more raw talent than the aforementioned duo, the difference in amplitude between his ‘on’ and ‘off’ matches is noticeably more dramatic. For the majority of last season, Mane was a passenger. Six of his 11 league goals came in the last six matches, and eight were in his last eight. Before then, he’d gone five months without a goal. At the age of 24, there is no doubt he has the time on his side, and a transfer to Liverpool will certainly be the test he needs if he is to take the next step up.
As for Saints? Nathan Redmond and £20m in the pocket, I’m pretty happy with that.
Harry, Don’t Cry For Messi Argentina, Leeds
…Sadio Mane to Liverpool…hmmm. £30 million quid is a lot of cash for Mane. What do Liverpool fans feel about this one?
Mane is decent but is he any more than that? Yes, he ia a top-eight Premier League player, but is he a title winner? Would Utd, City or Chelsea sign him?
I worry with this one that the most attention-grabbing parts of the story are the price and the club.
Liverpool have often spent big chunks of cash in players that I don’t think the other big teams would buy. I’m thinking Robbie Keane type signings. Roberto Aquilani type signings. You know the ones…there have been a few (lot.)
Signings whereby the fact it’s Liverpool, and the size of the fee, adds a sort of delusional gloss to the actual ability of the player in question, that quickly rubs off when he gets in the pitch.
The ones where the player initially struggles, and is either written off entirely and sold for an embarrassing loss, or eventually recaptures the sort of form that saw him lead his previous club to a respectable seventh in the league; thereby contributing to Liverpool eventually finishing fifth, as he becomes another part of a squad that seems to absorb surprisingly expensive signings, without ever improving in any tangible way.
The ones who are past the age after which they are likely to improve hugely, regardless of which of the above categories they fall into, and hence don’t.
The signings that are the reason Liverpool never truly rise above teasingly abject mediocroty.
Not all Liverpool signings are like this, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes you kopites bag a real gem I think the side you have now is exciting to watch and will do well this year without European football. If I was a betting man, I’d stick a tenner on it being your year this year. No more than a tenner obviously, but it would be a crisp one.
Klopp is an interesting character, and could perform miracles with Liverpool, but is Sadio Mane for £30 million really a likely part of that scenario?
Maybe he is, but it all looks a bit Benteke to me, if I’m honest. A bit, you know, Stuart Downing. A touch of the Mignolets, if you like…
Ben, MCFC, Manchester