Lionel Messi produced a GOAT-level dribble in PSG colours on Wednesday night, his first game of 2023, following his World Cup win with Argentina.
The first modern English thesaurus was written in 1852 by a physician and philologist called Peter Mark Roget, who spent several years writing a comprehensive list of English synonyms. It’s probably for the best he didn’t live during the Messi era.
For almost 20 years, Messi has delivered genius on a weekly basis in the form of stupendous goals, jaw-dropping passes and dribbles.
And it’s heartening to know, in the embryonic stages of 2023, that the 35-year-old is still producing nuggets of fantasy to warm us from the inside.
PSG’s home match with Angers looked, on paper, like the footballing equivalent of your annual dental check-up; routine, without incident and forgettable by the time you’d left the venue.
But, with Messi on the pitch, the experience was transformed. In his first game of 2023, the World Cup winner equalled Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of 696 goals in Europe’s top five leagues with a tidy finish.
And we couldn’t have been the only ones tickled as the advertising boards flashed the word ‘GOAT’ behind the PSG No. 30.
Although, by now, this is surely a statement of fact rather than the stadium operators causing mischief.
As the game meandered towards a routine 2-0 home win, Messi decided to awaken the slumbering crowd with a characteristic demonstration of skill.
Having gathered the ball on the byline, the maestro dragged the ball away from Nabil Bentaleb before slipping it through the legs of Miha Blazic. On the touchline, the Angers physio ordered two hip replacements for his stricken players.
As Messi slithered away like an eel, the Parc des Princes cooed in admiration. They clearly understand, that in the autumn of his career, it becomes even more important to savour moments like this.
We are, of course, just weeks past the World Cup final, crowning a tournament that will surely become Messi’s defining achievement in the eyes of the world.
While the coverage of Argentina matches on British television became a professional safe space for Messi fawners, led by Rio Ferdinand, his exploits in Qatar were enough to win anyone over.
“Honestly if we had a camera in here, the way we were jumping up and down,” Alan Shearer said after the quarter-final against the Netherlands, spelling out the obvious. “I’ve lost my voice screaming how is he doing this?
“He’s embarrassing players but with his head up. You know a player goes through a cluster of players their head’s down usually, but he’s taking people on and seeing the pitch, his spacial awareness is phenomenal.”
Perhaps Shearer has the kernel of a point; attempting to understand Messi dilutes the enjoyment of sitting back, grabbing the popcorn and just watching him play.
And, from beyond the grave, Roget can be heard breathing another sigh of relief he lived in the pre-GOAT age.
By Michael Lee