After Barcelona’s victory over Atlético Madrid yesterday, future ex-Atlético coach Quique Sánchez Flores called Lionel Messi “the best player I’ve seen, the Di Stéfano of the 21st century.” It was a great compliment from a coach who has had to watch his side beaten by the Blaugrana twice this season. (On a side note, poor Flores has had a really rough tenure at Atlético, especially given the recent unhappiness of Diego Forlán. Wish him the best; he’ll need it.)
Di Stéfano, as it happens, is an admirer of Messi. The comparison is slightly odd though because Messi and Di Stéfano–while both Argentinian–do not exactly play alike (although this Barcelona is a throwback to the legendary River Plate side of the 1940’s where Di Stéfano learned how to play. Both teams beloved for the beauty of their play.) What Flores was actually saying is that Messi is the greatest player of this new century–that Messi is one of the greatest players ever .
On the other side of Madrid however, that comparison has not gone over well, and of course, had to be negated immediately. Real Madrid General Director Jorge Valdano felt he had to correct the record today, and insisted that it was Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo (who wears Di Stéfano’s number 9) who is Di Stéfano’s true heir. The bitterness and jealousy in Valdano’s comment caused me to wonder what exactly goes on at Real Madrid and how much ego-stroking Cristiano Ronaldo needs on a regular basis (especially since Messi won the Ballon d’Or again.) Messi-envy is not new to Madrid; a few years ago, the then-interim president of Madrid told the media that the Dutch international Arjen Robbin was better than Messi, to the shock of all, including the Madridistas. Madrid got rid of Robben that summer. But it shows the mindset, “we have to have the best, and if we don’t we will pretend we do.” Madrid simply cannot handle being second.
In other news, Barcelona is still talking about acquiring Neymar, which is a really bad idea. He’s talented, but frankly untested as of yet. Also, he has way too much Robinho-style drama in him, which can only cause disharmony. If Neymar were smart, he would go to a Portugal or a Holland before making the move to a European giant. But money talks, and dollars are especially attracted to hype–which Neymar most definitely is. Neymar will never grow up, and he will be a disruption to whatever locker room he changes in.
If Barcelona want to bring a Brazilian over, there have to be less high-maintenance ones out there. Or maybe they should look at Argentinians. I hear there’s this kid named Iturbe . . .