Magical Lionel Messi came to Barcelona’s rescue for the umpteenth time last night, as he helped reverse a 2-1 deficit against Spartak Moscow to get their Champions League campaign started with a win.
The Spanish side, widely expected to win against Spartak, were left frustrated for most of the match as Unai Emery’s side camped in their final third, before two breakaway goals gave them a shock lead with half an hour to play. Messi saved Barcelona’s blushes with a two-goal haul, and send the Nou Camp crowd into ruptures.
Many a commentator will often target Messi as one to watch, and there were multiple times last night that the lethal trickery and genius nature of Lionel Messi should not be taken for granted, and should he be given space he will prove devastating. Messi, not one to shy away from pressure, did just that – twice.
The Premier League has time and time again been said to be the greatest league in the world, and so wouldn’t it be fitting if our nation had a Messi of our own. As Barcelona have Messi, Real Madrid have Cristiano Ronaldo. But which Premier League stars shine just like the little Argentine?
When Manchester United sold Ronaldo for £80m to Real Madrid in 2009, some may say his price tag was far too inflated. Either way, many Manchester United and football fans in general realised they would lose one of the greatest footballers in the world to a club away from England. Many felt that trying to replace Ronaldo was like trying to part water – it just wasn’t possible. With Antonio Valencia and Luis Nani, Sir Alex Ferguson went about trying to do just this. Both wingers showed electric pace and, at times, a fantastic final ball. In a dead-ball situation, they would strive. Countless attacks would see them hug the touchlines, savouring to take on full-backs before unleashing their more advanced strikers. Occasionally, they would cut in-field and take the shot on themselves. The only problem is, only rarely this would result in a goal. Nani is arguably the better of the two, but whilst no doubt boosting the team with his inclusion on the pitch, he isn’t a one-man game-changer.
Chelsea’s summer signing Eden Hazard is a key contender for Messi’s crown. Warming the hearts of the Stamford Bridge faithful instantly, he has already provided a goal and six assists in his four Premier League games, and is a joy to watch. The Ligue 1 two-time Player of the Year and former two-time Young Player of the Year joined Chelsea full of promise, and has not failed to deliver. A certain game-changer, his ability to pick out killer balls has been shown time and time again, and though too early in the season to liken the man to the Premier League’s Lionel, he is definitely a huge, huge talent in the game and can be a key player this season.
After the billion-pound takeover of Manchester City by Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2008, he has since spent £426m on new signings. Of those, did Mancini hold the key in finding City’s own magician? First came Robinho, one of City’s first big-money signings after the takeover at a costly £32.5m, but whilst boasting one of the quickest pair of feet in the Premier League he found it tough to adapt to the team, and by 2010 was granted a transfer to AC Milan.
Where Manchester City shine, and perhaps come the closest to their quest for the ‘Playmaker of the Premier League’, is in their current team. David Silva has been one of City’s best signings since Mancini’s arrival, and the £24m signing made little time settling into his new club. The attacking midfielder is confident both running the flanks and playing in-field, and though has struggled for regular first-team football this season, he amassed 17 assists and six goals in 2011/12. However, with game-time lacking, the former Valencia man may find it difficult to add an attacking element of football to the team they don’t already have.
National teammates with Messi, the Argentine duo of Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez have proved clinical when playing together, and their agility, prowess in the box, and flair have gone a long way in ensuring Manchester City success. Unfortunately, with Aguero injured in City’s clash with Southampton last month, he has only just resumed training and this season has not had much time to shine.
Tevez is a different story altogether. Following his high-profile move to Manchester City from arch-rivals Manchester United (and famous blue ‘Welcome to Manchester’ signs dotted around the city hardly helping soften the issue), Tevez found it difficult at times fitting into the team. He would often show a poor work rate in training or miss it altogether, and spent four months last season in Argentina, much to Mancini’s dismay. However, after patching things up with his manager, Tevez returned with a bang and already this season has been vital in Manchester City’s bid to retain their Premier League title.
Incredibly, Tevez has been goal-scorer or provider in seven of City’s nine league goals. He has scored three in his last four games, creating goals on four more occasions. With Tevez, City have amassed eight points in these four games. Without him, they’d have one. He scored against Southampton on the opening day of the season, as City came from behind to edge the newly-promoted team out 3-2. The next week, he scored and provided an assist in City’s 2-2 draw at Anfield. He then scored another, adding two further assists in their 3-1 home victory to Queen’s Park Rangers, before adding another assist in their 1-1 draw at Stoke.
Without Tevez, whilst it is farfetched to say Manchester City would struggle, the team would suffer a great loss. Tevez is the whole package – electric pace, skill, dynamism and power – and it is little wonder why he is referred to as a terrier on the field. With Aguero only this week declaring he is ready to return to action, Tevez has more than proved he is capable of making the difference, and if any man can boast a record like Lionel Messi’s, it’s this man.
Who would be your Premier League superstar? Can anyone come close to matching Messi’s talent?
image: © LivingOS