By Masimba C.K Mafukidze


The aid of sepia-tinted lenses, nostalgia and memory gaps, it is all too easy for seasoned observers of the game to submit the names of Pele, Cruyff and Maradona as the greatest players of all time. messi in action.jpgIn this day and age, we have to work very hard in order to snatch a full 90 minutes worth of performance from that Holy Trinity.


YouTube exists and is a precious commodity for revisiting the old stuff but it is the same tool which prompted Newcastle to buy Nacho Gonzalez.


In other words, it can make a player seem as good as it wants to. Without the benefit of objective, critical analysis on a day to day, week to week basis, we can neither dismiss the legacy of the greats, nor can we take it at absolute face value.


In the last decade and a half, with television exposure and the advent of online streaming, we can generally see what we want when we want and plenty of it too. Zinedine Zidane, at Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid led football into the information age and Ronaldinho took up the reins in the middle part of the last decade.


Cristiano Ronaldo is still dazzling but rarely has the world been in the presence of such consistent greatness as Lionel Messi. On Sunday night, we were treated to a display of absolute, undiluted genius.


This was not simply ‘another’ good showing from the Argentine. We have seen plenty of those already; three hat-tricks in 2010 alone before Leo put Atletico de Madrid to the sword with ferocious ruthlessness.

Every Barcelona game in La Liga and the Champions League is broadcast to an audience of millions and, even at the  age of 23, Messi’s reputation as one of the best players in the world precedes him. Still, he found the audacity to astound.

If Manchester United’s recent tactics can be described as ‘give the ball to Rooney’, and then Barcelona’s cannot be much different in regard to their own number 10.


Never has a player looked so likely to score when he is in front of goal. Never has a player looked so dangerous when carrying the ball at pace. Never has one player looked like such a threat all on his own. The manner of Messi’s goals against Atletico showed the measure of the man, the mark of greatness.


His first goal in the 17th minute was a trademark dash in from the right wing and he left several opponents trailing before arrowing a low shot past David De Gea.


Messi looked like a man playing in a child’s game – which, at 1.5m is some achievement.


Spain striker David Villa slipped the ball through for Messi to score his second in the 29th. Atletico captain Antonio Lopez got a foot to the ball but Messi burst clear and clipped a shot in off the right-hand post from close range.


The 23-year-old had a powerful header acrobatically saved by De Gea before he beat Diego Godin to a loose ball and prodded it over the line to complete a memorable treble.


Moreso, with Xavi attempting and nearly completing, over 100 passes on the night, Pep Guardiola’s side possess one of the world’s foremost midfield metronomes and should be able to dictate the tempo of most matches, home or away with the Spain international in their ranks.


But in Lionel Messi, regardless of the talent elsewhere in the team, the Blaugrana have the man who is writing the story of football for the 21st century.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent those of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.