For those uninitiated into the dazzling world of Lionel Messi (well, at least when he is in a Barça shirt), you have a prime opportunity to witness his genius on Saturday for the UEFA Champions League final where Messi's Barcelona take on Manchester United at Wembley Stadium in London. The game will be on all the Fox channels including the over-the-air one.
To prepare yourself, read this excellent article on him from last sunday's New York Times. Here is a tinly little snippet:
Messi grew homesick when he arrived with his father from Argentina, club officials said. He missed his mother and sometimes cried himself asleep. Quickly enough, though, he immersed himself in the Barcelona style, which demands flair and creativity, not mere utility. He played the keep-away game called El Rondo, in which one player stands inside a circle trying to steal passes made in tight spaces. He mastered the system known as tiki-taka, built around short, rhythmic passes and movement described by Iniesta as “receive, pass, offer,” triangular exchanges that form a spellbinding geometry.
Tiki-taka is generally understood to be the Spanish evolution of the Dutch 'Total Football' style that Johan Cruyff brought to Barcelona as manger in the late 80s and early 90s. That style, incidentally was on display last night in Jeld-Wen Field were Ajax outclassed the Timbers and their performance exposed the gulf between upper tier European clubs and the MLS. But I digress. Barcelona is mesmerizing in their team movement of the ball and their players. They apply immense pressure which only effective if the entire team is doing it together and in harmony. No one is as good as Barça at this.
Messi is both comfortable in this system as well as in moments of such individual brilliance that it leave you breathless. His quick combinations around the goal box that break through the most stubborn defenses as well as his mazy runs with the ball seemingly magnetically attracted to his feet make Messi the most exhilarating player in the world to watch.
I recommend it.