The Champions League offers us a break away from Sunderland`s recent rise in form and as we breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to another season in England`s, well most likely Europe`s elite league, we all can sit back to watch the big guns of our continent go for the jugular.
However, through all the endless stream of superlatives spewed by the footballing media, one thing remains constant, that no words can dress up and that is the appalling diving theatrics of Barcelona`s Lionel Messi.
Whilst his talent is undoubted and arguably the best in the world (although I would still be more inclined to pick Wayne Rooney before Messi, thanks to his all round game, which includes his heading ability) the fact that the diminutive Argentinean continues to follow in the footsteps of his cheating predecessor – one Diego Armando Maradona – with sickening acts of simulation, conning the match officials time and again into potential match changing decisions going his way.
For me, this could tar Messi`s future reputation in his bid to become the all time greatest footballer. Maybe it is something in the corned beef they ship over from Buenos Aires, but for all Maradona`s natural ability and breathtaking skill, he will be remembered for the hand of god incident in the World Cup finals of 1986, the proof being the Scotland versus Argentina friendly game of recent months, in which the pre match hype centred around Maradona`s footballing crimes, coming face to face with his adversary of the `86 World Cup – Terry Butcher – then part of the backroom staff at the Scottish FA, instead of his breathtaking years at Barcelona and guiding Italian team Napoli to the Serie A title, not to mention his international exploits.
Will the same be said in the future for the 22 year old Messi? Watching him collect his fourth hat trick of the year, ripping Arsenal apart at the same time, I was still disgusted at his earlier cheating antics to appreciate the skill on show. Will this come to dog his early combative years? Who knows, but I would not bet against some kind of off the ball incident come the summer and the forthcoming World Cup in South Africa, I only hope it does not occur against England at some stage or another.
For me, there is only one true all round player in the world and he wears the colours of Manchester United and the number 10, with the possibility of the two world stars facing each other in Madrid and the Champions League final, a repeat of Barcelona versus Manchester United anyone? And to have a dive free final out of it all…not on your Messi!