Comparisons are odious, ’tis often said and is of course true. How can someone from today say that Diego Maradona was a better player than Ferank Puskas or George Best?
So much changes, diet, the pitches, the ball, the boots, even the training of the players is so much more scientific today then even 20 years ago.
One thing is certain for me though, Lionel Messi has been the finest player to lace up a pair of boots since i’ve been alive and watching football.
For the privilege of watching him score two goals against my team in the Champions League last Tuesday night, I paid the sum of £1. Well, actually it was £1 per minute, which just shows how “the people’s game” truly no longer is.
How can the average working man afford to pay £90 for a European match as well as the sums needed for the run of the mill league games. Whilst Messi will earn more in 10 matches than I will in my entire life in total, the market appears willing to pay him and his ilk more and more cash, almost all of it coming from football sponsorship money. Ahh that nice Mr Blatter.
A couple of quiet ones chatting to fellow fans about the absolute pasting we were about to receive
before heading to the match. I arrived early for a tour around the outside of the stadium. I loved Highbury, crammed in between terraced houses, a nightmare for the residents I’m sure but I loved it. The Emirates is a wonderful stadium both inside and out, the exterior walls are adorned with pictures and words from and about players old and new,
even the crowd were great against Barcelona, which is a rarity really, Arsenal fans not being known for their noise and singing, but I still prefer Highbury. I understand Arsenal have a stadium that is the envy of the Premier League, and that it was done in a way that allowed the finances to continue in the black, again the envy of the Premier League, but I still prefer Highbury.
And so, for the first time in my life, I was to see the little Argentinian maestro with my own eyes. I am a passionate Arsenal fan, have supported them since I was old enough to understand football, I see them as often as I can, no mean feat when I live in France and work in Africa but I get to see several games a season. This time though, my eyes were focused solely on the small figure wearing the number 10 shirt in the famous Barcelona colours.
Its the hope that kills. After a nervy opening 10 minutes Arsenal grew into the match, matching their illustrious oppenents both physically and mentally. They grew stronger into the game as it went on. At half time I said to my friend “If they keep this up I will stay at home a week longer and go to Barcelona to watch the second leg.” Then, in the space of just a few minutes, the dream was smashed.
For the duration of the 90 minutes I watched only Messi. I noticed other players and could see a couple of Arsenal players having good matches, but for me, to have seen the greatest player of his generation (and in my opinion the greatest player ever) live, in the flesh, was worth every penny. He actually had a quiet game, only scored both goals and had a couple of fantastic passes, but just to watch him was a footballing lesson.