• Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022
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OP-ED: Football, bloody hell

  • Published at 06:23 am August 10th, 2021

Lionel Messi leaves Barcelona. He does not leave football. Enjoy him

It seems appropriate to title this piece after one of the greatest quotes in football history, uttered by one Sir Alex Ferguson, often referred to as the greatest manager in the sport, after his remarkable victory against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final in 1999 that made Manchester United the only English club to achieve arguably the greatest achievement that any European football club can achieve in one season -- that of a continental treble, winning the domestic cup competition, their domestic league title, and the Champions League.

Because after all, while Lionel Andres Messi was already a superstar and one of the very best players in the world at the age of 21 by the time the Champions League final was played between Barcelona and Manchester United on May 27, 2009 at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy, it was his emphatic headed goal, all 5ft 7 inches of him rising between Manchester United’s defenders, that all but sealed the historic treble, this time not for Manchester United, but for FC Barcelona, becoming, just as Manchester United did as an English club, the only Spanish football club to achieve this.

Football, bloody hell.

Sir Alex Ferguson and his then-golden boy and reigning Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo could only look on as first time manager Josep “Pep” Guardiola celebrated with a side that now featured, at 21 years old and without much doubt, the very best player in the world.

That was 2009. Fast forward to August 8, 2021, and Lionel Messi, now 34 years old, club captain and icon, has officially left Barcelona, the football club and city that signed him at age 13 on a paper napkin from a small town in Argentina -- a story that shall remain in football folklore forever, much like the player himself. In the process, six Ballon d’Ors, 34 major trophies, and close to 700 goals and over 300 assists later, he leaves the club as not only its greatest player, not only the greatest player in La Liga history, but arguably the greatest footballer of all time.

And yet, he departs.

Football, bloody hell.

Messi and Barcelona have always been synonymous. In fact, I would wager that most if not all Barcelona fans under the age of 25 (or even older) are fans because of Messi. That his European career would not end in Barcelona seemed unthinkable, and even now, it seems as if something is going to change, and he shall be back next season.

And yet, he departs.

Football, bloody hell.

He may have left Barcelona but he isn’t finished yet. Wherever he goes, you can be assured that fans will follow. Football fans, fans of the sport, those who enjoy watching the game and not just the score and who scored and who didn’t. Not just those who are worried about records and numbers. I mean football fans.

For it is impossible that if you are indeed a football fan, and love the sport and consider it the “beautiful game,” that you do not love the brilliance of Lionel Messi, and the magic he conjures with a football at his feet. Even if you support the opposition team. The fact that he has always played the game the right way, perhaps to his discredit, has only, in the view of this writer, elevated his status.

I intended for this to be a long tribute. I thought about digging deeper into the stats, the records, the accolades. There is so much that one can write, including the reasons he left in the first place, and the legacy he leaves behind.

But then I was reminded of one of the other best quotes in football, this time by his former manager Pep Guardiola:

“Don’t write about him, don’t try to describe him, just watch him.”

AHM Mustafizur Rahman is Assistant Editor, Editorial and Op-ed, Dhaka Tribune