Sporting Life: Can Messi that old genius rise above the pressure?

1 week ago 28

He’s thinking it, dreaming it, being told it, understands it. We don’t need to say anything. Lionel Messi knows.

A goal is required on Saturday. An imposing performance. A pass that splits a defence like a scalpel cutting skin. A weaving run like a pickpocket fleeing through a crowd. Anything, as long as it’s victory against Mexico.

Pressure. It’s always pressure. The force exerted on a player by a demanding world, though here the PSI is something different: It’s a million desperate prayers per square inch of jersey. As Luca Caioli wrote in his 2008 book, Messi, a song was written long ago whose chorus is still valid:

“Go for it Lionel

“the world is waiting to see you run again

“we want to see the magic in your feet.”

Everyone knows Messi – the Pope, his president, kids who wear a No.10 shirt as if it holds a superpower and even Siri. I asked a colleague to check with Siri who the greatest footballer is and his name emerged on her phone. After the Mexico game, even a robot might recompute everything. Everywhere there is pressure. It is the weight of hope.

Pressure spawns intensity, it’s a spotlight that burns, it leads athletes to vomit, it asks them to find clarity amidst the chaos. Great players separate themselves by how they wear it, like Rafael Nadal winning the Australian Open final at 35 this year when Daniil Medvedev’s talented boot was on his throat.

“I just wanted to keep believing till the end, no? I just wanted to give me a chance.”

That was Nadal in January; in November it has to be Messi.

Messi knows pressure better than a deep sea diver, it’s been his companion all his life, but what he thinks we don’t really know. By virtue of language (he told journalist Guillem Balague he understands English but doesn’t really speak it), and quiet personality, he’s possibly the least-heard great champion in modern sport.

There are no legendary documentaries where he reveals himself, no frequent insights into what he thinks of football, no regular post-match interviews as tennis stars do. He is both central to our lives and yet remote. What we know is what we see on a field. But what he feels, always aware that a game in part and his nation in full leans on him, we’ll never understand.

Messi knows what happens when he fa...

Read Entire Article