Catalan sports paper El Mundo Deportivo discusses Argentina’s unrealistically high expectations from Messi. The paper says Argentina wants Messi to cry – like all Argentinian heroes. Yes, that’s it, cry because the heroes of Argentina cry, Maradona cries and Martín Palermo cries. They want their players to express their feelings, to be cunning, to throw themselves to the floor, to make strong statements, kiss the shirt again and again – in short full of drama. They want him to grab the ball and to singlehandedly decide the games. To dribble out six opponents and play a selfish game. It’s not that Messi doesn’t have the ability to do all that, he is just a different kind of Argentinian player. The country’s football fans want him to be self-sufficient, without the help of the team. They are asking Messi to do everything no one will ever ask him to do in Barcelona, nobody, not Pep and certainly not any true Barcelona fan.
When they say he is not like any Argentinian footballer, the point of fact is, it is because his footballing DNA is of a Blaugrana. Messi was educated in the Barcelona academy of football, where excellence is nurtured but here it is meant to serve the team. He has turned himself into the world’s best, playing with his team, the Barcelona team, but here in Argentina each player is expected to fight his own battle.
On top of that, Messi is not a leader in the Argentina team, unlike at Barcelona. Nobody in Guardiola’s dressing room questions Messi’s natural leadership – he is a leader not of courage or heart (like Puyol), but he is a leader of his football on the pitch. If the team assists Messi, the team wins, if they give the ball to him, something happens. Nobody requires Messi to be like Carles Puyol, each player has his role.
The problem with Argentina is the fact that the team is born out of improvisation, not tactical, and without a real coach. Messi is used to the work done by Rijkaard, and now by Guardiola, they are simple. He knows the coaches at Barcelona never say: “Get out there and resolve it” (unlike Maradona). Drawn on the blackboard is a strategy to give the player the best circumstances for him to display his football.
Messi said after the Peru match, “The important thing was to win…” That is the culture that has taken root in the El albiceleste. At Barcelona, every player knows that if they win it’s because they play well or at least, try to play well as a team.
This Wednesday Argentina will face Uruguay, a team well laid out under Oscar Tabarez, a coach known for his ability to provide instructions to his team. The advantage the albiceleste have over Uruguay is the number of star players they have, but in reality, Uruguay is the better team, simply because the albiceleste are not a “team”.
Argentina, if they win in Montevideo will be automatically through to the World Cup, and if they draw, can still secure the playoff spot. But they could miss the tournament in South Africa if they lose and Ecuador wins this Wednesday. And for this penultimate match, Maradona is thinking of changing his line-up again, as he always does with every match. He is relying now on the ‘Brujita’ Veron, another player of Martin Palermo’s profile, and thinking of benching Pablo Aimar, and up front he’ll play Higuain and Palermo, to give him another “miracle”.