Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Myopic journalism

Lionel Messi is being hailed in the English media. Turns out that he's a good footballer. The evidence of this? He scored a goal against Manchester United, and four against Arsenal. That'll be it then.

The case of Zlatan Ibrahimovic is even more amusing. While he's no Messi or Ronaldo, he's a supremely gifted footballer, with an eye and talent for something a bit special. He has shown this countless times over the years, but the English media judged him on one non-performance against England in an international. In the build-up to the first leg of the Arsenal-Barcelona clash, we kept hearing about how overrated he was.

Two goals later, and a bit of humble pie was being hastily consumed. All of a sudden, we heard how Zlatan had finally raised his game, and evolved from a raw talent into the finished article. Apparently this evolution happened in 20 minutes at The Emirates stadium. Amazing transformation.

Seriously, in this day and age, how ridiculously myopic and insular does one have to be in order to make such selective judgments?

Messi, Maradona and Ronaldo.

The quite predictable happened yesterday - Arsenal were humbled by Barcelona. We often hear, and rightly so, about how United were taught a lesson in last year's champion's league final, but the schooling Arsenal received over two legs put 2009 to shame.

There's not a lot left to say about Lionel Messi that hasn't been said, other than for me to assert that rather too much has already been said.

He is a stupendous footballer, of that there is no doubt. He's always looked a serious talent, and over the last 18 months he's translated that into consistently exceptional performances. However, to talk about him in the same breath as Maradona is quite simply premature. I'm not sure there's ever been a player like Maradona, warts and all. Perhaps Duncan Edwards might have become that player, but we'll never know. But Maradona single-handedly dominated all in his path. What he did with Napoli defies belief, and then he went on to win the World Cup in 1986. Not Argentina, but Maradona.

Messi, on the other hand, is a phenomenal player in an superb footballing team. He's not carrying them in quite the way that Maradona carried Napoli, but he's also not as far off as one might think. What he has to do, in order to even knock on the door of that ultimate pantheon of greatness, is to put in those performances for Argentina.

It's unfashionable to say this, but Cristiano Ronaldo, who currently seems a distant second to Messi, has regularly done the business for Portugal, as well as being the architect of his teams' successes at club level. Ronaldo may not be quite the footballer Messi is, though history will be the final arbiter on that score, but he's had a greater and broader impact on his teams than Messi, at this point. Controversial, but true.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

What makes a great T20 cricketer?

Some say it's all about physical strength. Some say it's raw aggression. Jacques Kallis and Sachin Tendulkar may be proving in the IPL that it's simply down to cricketing skills in their purest forms.

But Geoff Miller, England selector, has other ideas, according to AFP. England picked Michael Lumb in their T20 squad not because of his explosive batting, but apparently because he can make the rest of the team feel good about themselves. Move over, sports psychologists.

Do we really live in a world in which journalists don't know the difference between "complement" and "compliment?" Don't answer that question.