The Soccer Whiz: It can only be Messi

Lionel Messi

AND so we come to the end of yet another action packed, tension filled, on the edge of your seat, football season.

In this report of a quite extraordinary year of football, I will attempt to sum up the highlights of a season that is unprecedented in so many ways, beginning of course with the fact that it’s one of the longest on record with the Qatar World Cup sandwiched in the middle.

The sand dunes of Qatar provided the backdrop to the most bewitching, beguiling and brilliant World Cup ever staged while also cementing the legacy of Leo Messi as football’s greatest ever player.

With the World Cup done and dusted, undivided attention and focus could finally be directed towards the completion of the various leagues and continental competitions around the world.

Despite unnecessary persistent criticism by certain media outlets of the negative effects on the players of the staging of the World Cup in the middle of the season, things resumed pretty much without too much complication.

In the EPL, pacesetters Arsenal continued their sparkling run of form, unhindered, untroubled and unfazed in pursuit of a first title since 2004.

They remained in firm control of their own destiny until they collapsed at the most vital stage of the season through I believe, a combination of unfortunate injuries to key players and a loss of confidence that engulfed the side following Anfield stage fright where they contrived to unexpectedly give up a two goal cushion to Liverpool.

In a heartbeat, the coolness, calmness, cockiness and self-belief that they had displayed all season, deserted them.

From such highs, the young inexperienced squad were gunned and axed down as they failed to cope with City’s persistent unrelenting pressure.

Not for nothing.  Mikel Arteta should be commended and applauded for taking this(some would say, mediocre side,)so mightily close to the holy grail of the Premiership.

The curry pot has been stirred if not shaken and the almost guaranteed arrival of Declan Rice augers well for another genuine Arsenal tussle for the crown.

Manchester City might have come from behind in the EPL but they ended the season rightfully acknowledged as the finest club side in world football by cruising to the treble and laying down an extremely high marker for the rest of Europe to catch up.

Kings of England and champions of Europe but die hard citizens of Manchester will never need reminding that this is the same club who in 2001 were languishing in the second tier of English football.

Food for thought for a City side who have reached their oasis with a coach who can pop the bubbly after one preppy perfect campaign.

As I have stated elsewhere, if Lionel Messi is regarded as the GOAT, then Pep Guardiola surely must be acknowledged as the greatest ever shepherd!

Inter Milan, however, were the better team on the night and for the first time in recent memory, made Manchester City look decidedly ordinary.

However, no one anywhere is begrudging a City side their first Champions League success, coming as it did after so many near unlucky misses.

Things though might have been different for Inter if they had a striker other than ‘no luck Lukaku’ who must now believe that he’s usurped the title of the ‘Prophet of Misses’ from a certain Gonzalo Higuain (notorious for ensuring that Lionel Messi had to wait for him Higuain to retire before he could start winning international titles!).

Lukaku’s career long spell of agonising close key luckless misses for club and country continues to haunt him but at least this time playing for City and not his national side Belgium, Kevin De Bruyne can thank his lucky stars that Lukaku was playing for the opposition.

Lukaku’s Argentine teammate Lautaro Martinez meanwhile slumped to the ground in sadness at the final whistle, but he can console himself after a season where he displayed Lukaku inaccuracy in his finishing at the World Cup, but still finished with a winners medal because he had the likes of Julian Alvarez and of course, a certain Lionel Messi, to bail him out.City bench warmer for the Champions League Final night, Julian Alvarez in the process, aced an incredible quadruple with the World Cup champion medal to add to his terrific City treble.

Another fully blooded bench warmer Scott Carson has an immensely satisfying feat-he was the victorious reserve goalkeeper for City on the night against Inter Milan, but he was also the reserve goalkeeper at the same dugout in the same Istanbul stadium in 2005 for a Liverpool side in their epic victory over AC Milan!

Wow Scott! You honestly couldn’t make that up!

There was similar  euphoria at Sevilla where a number of Argentina World Cup winners were able to end off the season on an extra high with success in the Europa League.

This lest we forget is a Sevilla who struggled for most of this year’s La Liga campaign but whose love affair with the Europa League saw them securing their seventh title in 17 years!

In their ranks is right back Gonzalo Montiel, who has the unique distinction of scoring the decisive winning shoot out penalty for Argentina in the World Cup final against France as well as scoring the winning last kick of the penalty shootout for Sevilla in  the Europa Cup final against Roma!

In Italy, Napoli finally lifted a Serie A title again and the first since Messi’s late, great national hero Don Diego Maradona donned their colours.

Their biggest challenge will now be to ward off suitors of their kingpin Victor Osimhen, who are lurking ominously.

Yes folks, we have barely had a moment to digest, to savour the mouth watering season we have just been blessed with and already the transfer rumours and indeed activity are in overdrive.

One notable EPL move is that of the big Mac(allister)on his way with his World Cup medal in harness to Liverpool with James Milner poised to go the other way to Brighton!

Ouch Brighton, you’re normally so astute, talk of being short changed!

Amongst the biggest stories making the rounds thus far have been that of Leo Messi becoming the MLS’s greatest ever recruit and that of Jude Bellingham completing his 103 million euro move to Real Madrid from Dortmund.

With a maturity belying his years, he is my pick to be captain of both club and country by the time the next World Cup comes around.

Madrid are never far off the pace and if they can finally lure Kylian Mbappe over who is making rumblings again at PSG, it will surely be Real Madrid and not marvellous Manchester City, who start off the season as the likeliest to reign supreme in Europe.

A move to a real league will also allow Mbappe the opportunity to take over the mantle of the greatest player on the planet from Lionel Messi.

The little magician by virtue of his stellar sublime Qatar World Cup run and ultimate victory is my vote for this year’s ballon d’oha!

Messi’s performance at the World Cup was beyond ordinary and not the performance of a mere mortal.

Any player putting on a display like that at football’s greatest tournament is normally a shoe in for the ballon d’or (respectfully I say that only Maradona in 1986 had a better World Cup tourney than Messi in 2022!).

So why should it be any different simply because it’s Messi?

So it really must be Messi although I have a hunch that the powers that be will ensure a different outcome!

Feedback: Twitter @thesoccerwhiz

Related Topics