Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Is MESSI ready to be our new play-maker?

The play-maker position remains a void in an Argentina team that for a long time was used to have a natural-born player to take on that crucial role, Juan Román RIQUELME. Like him or not, he was born to organize the team going forward, to keep the ball when it was needed, to send killer assists to the box and to push the “pause” button when the Albicelestes needed to slow down a bit or to freeze the game.

BASILE have always played with play-makers (ENGANCHE is the Argentine word for that) and, so far, he didn’t find a successor, someone who can handle that burden and the responsibility that comes with that. Some one with shoulders wide enough to wear that mythical number 10 shirt.

With Switzerland and Algeria on the horizon, the tiny little silhouette of a boy that feels he is up for it. The kid that Diego himself has named as the next big thing coming from Argentina: Lionel MESSI.

In an interview with OLE, “The Flea” said: “I used to play in that position when I was a part of the youth teams in Barcelona. I felt comfortable but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like to play on the right.”

“I always said that if I had to choose I would prefer playing in the middle rather than on the right, the position I play in for Barcelona.”

Asked if he could play supporting SAVIOLA and CRESPO in attack he said: “Any of the forwards that we have can work together. We are all going through good times and that is very important for our National Team”.

He adds a little spice to this whole conversation of him taking on the play-maker role: “It is always good to score goals and I would like to keep on scoring. But I’m not a natural forward, I said that in the past.”

“I played as a support to the main striker, I did it in the Youth World Cup (The Netherlands 2005) and for Barça’s youth teams. If I have to choose, that’s the position I’d like to play in.”

MESSI had time to talk about the difference between Brazilian and Argentine players approaches to their National Team and why the Albicelestes are desperate to play in the Copa America whereas their neighbours’ top players are pulling out the tournament: “I understand RONALDINHO’s case. I know him very well and I know he’s played a lot of matches. But I think is each person’s decision. It is true, however, that Argentine players will do everything they can to play for our National Team”.

Asked if it could be a case of Brazil winning a lot of trophies and Argentina being under pressure to win something after a long time (Copa America 1993 was the last major trophy –not including the Olympic Gold in Athens 2004), MESSI said: “It could be the case. RONALDINHO already played the Copa America, the World Cup. He surely doesn’t give as much relevance to the Copa America than I do, because this is the first one I’d have the chance to play. This is our National Team and I always said I want to play everything: friendlies, whatever. This could be my first Copa America. This is why I’m so excited about it”.

“We are still hurt after the last World Cup. Every Argentine is. We proved to the World that we played the best football in Germany 2006. Now I feel like we are starting a new era but we are still looking to win the Copa America so we can celebrate and we can forget once and for all the bad things that happened in the World Cup.”

There’s been a huge controversy after Getafe’s player treated MESSI rather harshly (committed 7 fouls on him, some of them very brutal), but LIO plays it down and doesn’t give it a lot of relevance: “I don’t think there is a campaign to play foul on me. I don’t even think about it. I always play the same way. I’m not scared of hard tackles. When there are matches like those, I like to take the ball and play them.”

I’m sure Diego is a proud man after reading this last sentence from MESSI.

That was what he did. I remember when Diego played Perú in the 1986 World Cup Qualifiers. There was a certain player called REYNA and he played as MARADONA’s shadow. He used all the dirty tricks in the book to try and stop him. And he almost got away with his mission accomplished. But Diego had just one spark of brilliance and Argentina won 1-0.

Same thing happened with Italian defender GENTILE in that World Cup and Diego still scored. Before that match, Argentina played against South Korea and I still remember those brutal tackles he suffered through 90 minutes.

So I think MESSI is spot on by saying that when he is a victim of foul play the best thing to do is to put the ball on the ground and keep going for it.

That’s what I’d like to see in our “enganche”.

I think he is still far from being ready for that, as a great play-maker peaks after the mid-20’s and MESSI in particular has a tendency to dribble first, pass later which could be harmful if he wants to be an organizer.

Here’s my vote of confidence for Lionel MESSI and I hope he can become a great play-maker before too long.

This boy always has a new trick in his magic hat. Will he pull it in the next Copa America?


johnny said...

Seba-wonderful stuff from Messi ! Despite having never played "club futbol" in Argentina, it is hard not to be impressed by his devotion, honesty and hard work. That said, I also have reservations about his ability to take over the play making spot. Certainly there's nothing wrong with Coco taking a look at what Messi is capable of, but there are other able, more experienced players who can fill the role. Aimar and others. I have expressed concerns about Riquelme's unpredictability in the past, but the way he has been performing for Boca lately, I hope Coco keeps him in mind if other players don't work out as well as Coco hopes. All this of course based on whether or not Roman is ready and willing.

johnny said...

ESPN is reporting today that Barca is close to a deal to acquire Boca striker Rodrigo Palacio. Rodrigo has a complicated contract with Boca involving previous teams and his agent and must solve that before the deal can be consummated. I have mixed feelings about this being a big Boca fan, though I am fond of Barca as well. In addition, for whatever reason Palacio has not looked as sharp recently as he did last year. This is apparently not going to deter Barca. It would be nice to see Palacio and Messi together. More evidence that Eto'o is history ?

Soy de River said...

I think that Messi can be the answer for our enganche. He possesses the ability to collapse the defense around him which would create openings for the other players. althoug he has passed much at barca, it is due to his position. Who wants a forward that just passes and never shoots? The secret to being the playmaker of any team is knowing when to pass. I think he can do that.

Seba said...

Thanks for the info Johnny. It's been a while since Barça is reportedly trying to sign PALACIO.

I wonder why would they gamble on PALACIO and set free a proven striker (already established and used to play in Europe) like SAVIOLA.

Plus...if they are to sign a striker this off-season, I would think they will go for Diego MILITO.

If what they want is replace Samuel ETO'O (I'm not sure that would be a good move), then I think MILITO is more likely to provide the goals and the physical presence they will miss once ETO'O is gone.

I see PALACIO more as a GIULY's replacement rather than to fill a gap left by ETO'O's.

"Soy de River" (I'm writing this very carefully because I'm not a River fan and I don't want this tricky nickname of yours to lead somebody to believe that I "SOY DE RIVER" haha! anyway), I think MESSI is sometimes too "individualistic", reluctant to pass the ball around.

Of course, COCO can work on that and teach him how to pass the ball and when to try the dribble.

I agree with what you say about the key to be a play-maker. You have to know when to pass the ball. But I'll add: "You have to know when to pass the ball, when you have to shoot and when you have to dribble".

No doubt he can do it all and he can do it almost to perfection.

He's got that gift.

But as Master Yoda would say to any young Jedi, "he learn must to use it when" :)

johnny said...

Seba-thanks for the feedback about Palacio and Barca. I agree, it does not make much sense, but as you point out, maybe they have something else in mind. Plus, of course, I don't know whether Barca is going to say adios to Eto'o, but I would not be surprised, particularly after he messed up team morale this year, and was recently flirting with Liverpool. It would be great to see D. Milito join Messi and Palacio at Barca. Barca versus Real Madrid would be a very rich for Argentina fans.

Anonymous said...

I believe that Messi will be a truly great playmaker one day, hopefully by 2010. However, at the moment I think he is still a bit too young. As Seba mentioned in his post Messi can sometimes be a bit selfish with the ball (look at this past Sunday's game, while he had an excellent game despite getting the crap kicked out of him by Getafe defenders, there was more than one occasion when he clearly should have passed to free strikers but didn't). However I also agree that Basile can work with him and rectify this.
What I think would be a nice idea would be to let him play in the playmaker role for one of the friendlies, or for part of one. Obviously we want to try and find the best team for Copa but I think the friendlies also provide a kind of low pressure situation for Basile to try Messi out. Still, for Copa I think I would prefer one of the more established figures even if it is Veron ;)

I would be extremely surprised if Palacio were to replace Eto'o, even more so that they would want to get rid of Eto'o considering he is their best striker (no matter how much I love Saviola, I would rate Eto'o first). As far as Seba's question regarding Saviola, it looks like the main issue between Barca and Saviola has to do with his wages. Still since they are neglecting him I would be thrilled if he were to move to Zaragoza just because it would be a lovely reunion of the Rabbit and the Clown (Aimar). Well it would be a complete reunion if Juan Pablo Angel (Colombian player) were to decide to leave Ashton Villa for Zaragoza as well. All the little dribblers together again!


Anonymous said...

One more thing: If Saviola were to go to Zaragoza I believe he would get much more playing time than at Barca AND as we all saw from the World Cup he works well with traditional #9's like Diego Milito. Of course that would mean that Milito would have to stay...


johnny said...

Isn't Saviola to Real Madrid a done deal ? That was my impression, but maybe things have changed. I also like the idea of auditioning Messi as enganche in a friendly. Maybe Coco can put an electric buzzer in his drawers and give him a little shock when he goes sprinting into three opposing players instead of passing the ball.:)

Seba said...

Argentinafan...oh how I suffered that River Plate side of the likes of AIMAR, SAVIOLA, AIMAR (and later D'ALESSANDRO) as they destroyed my beloved Racing Club on more than one ocassion...

However, it won't be possible for Juan Pablo ANGEL to join the gang at Zaragoza as he has recently signed a contract with the MLS outfit Red Bull New York.

In three appearences he already has 3 goals and 2 assists.

Check this link:

Anonymous said...

Seba, as a Boca fan I suffered quite a bit as well. Now, on the other hand. How unfortunate that Angel had to go and sign with the MLS, he would have done really well in Spain I think. Still, I'm happy he is having success in the States after what was, in my opinion, a poor move to the Premiership.

Johnny, I thought the Real Madrid thing was still a rumor, especially since only today they were still talking about Juventus. I personally think that he would have better luck regarding playing time at a smaller club rather than at Real. The paycheck might be nicer but I'm not sure his playing time would be all that much better than it was at Barcelona. Not only that but he has the additional risk of getting hit with a pigs head if anyone remembers what happened when Figo switched from Barca to Real.

LOL on the shock-learning-idea for Messi.


Anonymous said...

I mean Aston Villa BTW, I don't know why I keep spelling it incorrectly


johnny said...

Anonymous-I hope you are right about Saviola. If a bunch of our guys end up at Real Madrid that might cut into my Barca fervor. Being a Boca fan like me, what do you think about the Palacio move ? Do you get to see Boca play much ? You are in the states, right ?

Seba said...

Hey some respect! He is not Anonymous! He is argentinafan, one of the regulars here!

At least try and be nice to your fellow Boca fan!

As for SAVIOLA, to clear the air a little bit, it was announced by the Spanish newspaper MARCA (one of the most prestigious in the World) and it was pretty much a done deal at the time I posted that article here in our blog.

But things cooled off a little bit since then and nothing is/was confirmed.

It is going to be a "wait and see" situation. As it's always the case with SAVIOLA!

Here I'm watching Spurs demolishing Utah on their way to the NBA Finals!

It's 83-56 and Manu is on his way to a seven-game battle (if necessary) to get his 3rd NBA ring in what...4-5 years?

Impressive! I'm sure John will post an article about it.

Mal said...

Are Saviola and Crespo the two main strikers for Argentina now? Is Tevez far from getting one of these spots?

johnny said...

Ouch ! I apologize to argentinafan ! The last thing I would want to do is insult a fellow Boca fan ! Thanks for the update about Saviola Seba. It is an interesting question posed by Mal. Who are the main strikers at present ? Seems that's up to Coco, and the jury is out. I personally like the combination of Tevez and Crespo, but it's hard to argue with any number of combinations.

Anonymous said...

LOL. It's ok I forgive you Johnny and thanks for defending my Boca-honor Seba (though I'm a "she" and not a "he." It's my own fault though for not having a more descriptive online handle).

The Saviola going to Zaragoza was an early rumor that cooled off pretty quickly. I'm not sure they had the money. Most of what I said early was pure wishful thinking, mostly because I want them to get to the Champions League. I do standby the statement though that in a footballistic sense he would be better served going to a smaller club where he would get lots of playing time rather than a big club like Real.

So I am torn regarding the Palacio move. I like the guy and would like him to have whatever opportunities allow him to be the best player he can be (and for the NT, hehe) but at the same time I want him to stay because the Palacio/Palermo partnership is an awesome thing and I'd like to see at least one season where we weren't thrown off by losing one of our influential players/coaches.

I try and see as many Boca games as I can but I'm pretty much at the mercy of the american sports tv stations. Fox Soccer Channel shows the argentinian league but they alternate between Boca and River games. Whatever isn't showing on tv, I can follow if I find an Argentinian radio station on the internet.

BTW, are you excited about tonight's Copa Libertadores game?

So this sounds very redundant and obvious but the striker combination depends on the team that Basile plays and I don't actually think that he has a formation picked. I mean if you look at the domestic group of players Basile seems to favor Palacio and Pavone. Within the foreign based players, he originally favored Tevez, Messi (who isn't actually a striker as he himself has said) and Aguero but Saviola and Crespo did start against France. Basically as Johnny already said it's still up in the air.


Soy de River said...

Pffft, Boca.

Aimar, Saviola, D'Allesandro. Those were the days, they seem so long ago, but back to Messi.

I think he is a natural for the enganche postion in todays game. His unbelieveable speed and touch on the ball is unteachable. Know when to pass, shot or dribble can be taught, my only concern is that if he continues to be used as a striker on the club level, his transition to playmaker will be a tough one. It is hard to develop a pass first mentality if you only do it once in a couple of months.

Perhaps it is time to bring back D'Allesandro, although as I remember he was a bit greedy with the ball as well.

Soy de River said...

argentina fan-

Although it pains me greatly to do anything nice for a boca fan. jk :)

try :

They broadcast alot of games including tonights game as well.

Soy de River

johnny said...

Argentinafan-I will be sporting my Boca cap tonight and watching on a flat screen at a local watering hole with my Boca buddy. By the way, there was an article in today's Buenos Aires Herald about Cucuta's management having ties to Colombia's right wing, drug money laden paramilitaries. The last thing I would want to do is introduce politics, but, more of a reason to kick some fascist butt this evening !:) Suerte !

octi1122 said...

Very interesting article, however there is one fact which is not entirely true. When Argentina play against Peru in 1985 (1986 qualifying games) Peru won 1-O and Maradona did not score a goal. Juan Carlos Oblitas scored. The next game was in Argentina the final score was 2-2. There was one more game between Argentina (with Maradona) and Peru in 1987 Copa America and the final score was 1-1. This time Maradona scored a goal and Reyna scored for Peru. Reyna could use some illegal tactics (however, he never injured Maradona neither insult him) but Maradona never won a single game against Peru.

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