Lionel Messi has excelled in every competition he has been a part of, but somehow an away match at Stoke is touted to be difficult for the Argentine forward.
Around four years ago, top EPL TV pundit and journalist Andy Gray sensationally questioned Lionel Messi’s ability to cope with the rigours of EPL and that the world best player would surely struggle in a cold, wet, windy night at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke City.
More than depth, the masala element behind this question, keeps it afloat every time Leo is discussed – even after he silenced doubters with his World Cup 2014 exploits. It’s a different matter that no one questions Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic’s exploits for their respective nations, but with Lionel Messi, the expectations are at stratospheric levels (and ‘masala’ news, a rarity), hence the question survives.
Indian cricketing God, Tendulkar, with similar image and standing, has gone through similar dissections. As Messi starts aging, I fear, retirement calls will be running for more than half a decade as it did with Sachin.
Gray had also said then that “Barcelona would struggle in the EPL as they’ve never played the likes of Stoke.” While the Catalan team’s struggles with Chelsea are well documented, Gray’s lines came five months before Manchester United’s second attempt at conquering Barcelona in a Champions League final, failed. Two Champions League and 13 Premier League title winners, Sir Alex Ferguson, went on to say that “Barcelona were the best team ever i faced”.
It sort of fazes me how Stoke City’s negative and anti-football tactics over the years have been hailed as a benchmark by sections of the English media. The quality of the argument pales instantly when you equate how the current La Liga imports become overnight stars in the EPL.
Juan Mata was an instant hit with Chelsea and then with Manchester United, but Messi will struggle in EPL! Yaya Toure and David Silva drove Manchester City to two historic EPL titles within four years of their joining, but Messi will struggle in EPL!
Cesc Fabregas, Alexis Sanchez have had more instant success with their respective London clubs than what they had with Barcelona entire last year, but Messi will struggle in EPL! Real Madrid rejects Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria were instant hits on joining EPL, but Messi will struggle in EPL!
The list goes on.
Jesus Navas, Michu, Diego Costa, Adrian, Thibaut Courtois, Fernando Torres, Sergio Aguero, Santi Cazorla, Alvaro Negredo … all were overnight stars within a month of joining their English team; but Messi will struggle in EPL!
Stoke City themselves are going through an image makeover under Mark Hughes and early this season signed a player who wasn’t even getting chances for Barcelona reserve team. Bojan Krkic is now a star at Stoke City, but Messi will struggle in EPL!
One and a half decades ago, the EPL had solid quality and even top players needed time to adjust to conditions. Many of them flopped – Veron, Forlan, Poborsky, Kezman, Kleberson, Mutu, Brolin, Shevchenko, Crespo to name a few. But equating Leo with any of them will be disrespecting the best player of our generation and arguably one of football’s best, if not, the best.
More so, times have changed. In 2013, the only English player featuring in the Champions League last eight stages, was David Beckham. The reigning EPL champions Manchester City, year on year, struggle to pass the group stage tests of Champions league football. The world’s most followed and most exciting league isn’t the highest in quality and hence that makes imports attain big time success overnight, almost.
The argument Messi will struggle at EPL is as blasphemous as can be.
Andy Gray’s illustrious commentator career may now just be remembered for his weird comments. Within a month of this famous quote, Gray had to face sacking from his prime job at Skysports after being caught discussing a female assistant referee in derogatory terms, his second sexist tirade towards Siam Massey. Gray now works for Doha-based beIN Sports.