Friday , September 29 2023

Don’t write these two dogs off too quickly


SPOTLIGHT: Lionel Messi had a bad day at the office against Real Madrid this week. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

So Lionel Messi has one bad game and all of a sudden he’s past it, finished, and ready for the knacker’s yard.

That’s certainly what some so-called experts would have you believe after the Argentinian’s performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League this week.

Sure, he was nowhere near his best but I think sometimes we are quick to forget that when Messi is on top of his game, there’s no one better.

I’m not getting into the whole ‘Ronaldo vs Messi’ debate, I’ve written about that in the past, but I do want to take a moment to look at these two giants of the game that have dominated world football for many years.

Messi’s performance was very much under the spotlight this week because he was playing against Real Madrid, his oldest foe from the many years he spent at Barcelona.   

A penalty miss, his first ever against Madrid, didn’t help his cause. And even though PSG won thanks to a late goal by Kylian Mbappe, it was Messi’s performance, or lack of it, that was scrutinised.

It has been similar, you could say, to the amount of negativity witnessed of late to Cristiano Ronaldo’s poor run of form for Manchester United.

It’s worth noting at this point that Ronaldo is 37, and Messi 34. They are no spring chickens anymore.

And while Messi’s decision to play in the poorer Ligue 1 in France gives him an easier ride than Ronaldo in the English Premier League, PSG are still considered one of the top clubs in Europe.

But they both are on the final stretch of their glorious careers — their last dances before they hang up their boots for good.

I can’t blame them for dragging it out, and wanting to continue at the highest possible levels, and clearly physically, they are both in perfect condition.

But let’s not expect the unexpected for them every time they take to the pitch.

Ronaldo went someway to answering his critics with a great solo goal in Manchester United’s victory over Brighton this week, and I really wouldn’t put it past Messi to turn on the style in PSG’s return leg at Real in the Bernabeu.

But week in week out? Nah, not going to happen.

With a combined age of 71, you won’t get their A game every time they pull on the shirts of their respective clubs.

I do feel a little sorry for their club managers, Mauricio Pochettino in Paris and Ralf Rangnick at Manchester United.

It must be hard for those two to be able to say to Messi and Ronaldo: “Sit this next match out”, particularly if results don’t go their way when the aging superstars are benched.

So I guess it’s up to the players themselves to know their limitations and have the common sense to stand back and let others have a go in certain fixtures.

Soon they will be gone from the game for good. Another season or two for Ronaldo and maybe a little longer for Lionel.

But right now, there’s certainly a little life left in these two old dogs. They are after all pure pedigrees.  


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