Saturday, 27 October 2012
The Greatest's Hero
Earlier this year I wrote this piece on Messi.
I harboured some doubts if, at that point, he was the greatest player we've ever seen. That said, I predicted that by the time he retired there'd be no doubt at all. We will watch him, these next few years, become the greatest. Nothing that has happened over the last 10 months has stopped me thinking that. If anything I think some of my doubts have been removed.
There are many things to enjoy about Messi - his exquisite control, his forceful genius, his astonishing team ethic and work-rate, his outrageous vision and creativity, the sheer and unbridled joy that he brings to the game. Add, to that list, his choice of hero. You can tell a lot about a man from his choice of hero. As a young man, his favourite player was Pablo Aimar. What a wonderful choice.
We'd have been disappointed if he'd selected Ronaldo or Zidane or Figo. All wonderful players. All geniuses. But all a little obvious. One imagines - perhaps unfairly - that Cristiano Ronaldo would pick Ronaldo, or Figo, over Aimar or (given his nationality) someone as sumptuous as Rui Costa. Nothing wrong with that but nothing terribly right about it either.
Messi picking Aimar shows that he doesn't just create beauty but that he appreciates it. It shows he loves the game as much as the game loves him. It shows he isn't a leaden thinker. It should make you love him just that little bit more.
Here's some Aimar for your delectation and delight:
It is a curious position, and can be an unnerving experience, to be feted by a genius. It is an odd position to be the world's greatest player's hero. Aimar, a fine player - and an under-rated one - deserves the title. It is always a joy to see him play and equally joyous to see the temporary acclaim he gets as he runs a Europa League game against confused Premier League megastars.
Messi couldn't have picked better.