How Lionel Messi lastly noticed pink after 753 zen-like Barcelona matches


When Lionel Messi‘s second got here, it was, after all, spectacular.

Stage? The Spanish Supercopa last. State of play? Defeat or victory balanced infinitely delicately. Basic Messi territory.

For 753 Barcelona matches, adequate to make him the best participant in historical past, this has at all times very particularly been Messi territory.

From his first Liga purpose, scored in opposition to Albacete within the ninetieth minute almost 16 years in the past, by way of his extra-time winner in opposition to Estudiantes, scored with the membership badge on his chest, within the Membership World Cup last of 2009, proper as much as him selecting the 92nd minute of a Bernabeu Clasico to win the match 3-2 together with his five hundredth Barcelona purpose — imagine me after I inform you that this was Messi territory. Messi-time.

Solely this time, the “spectacular” wasn’t a purpose however the fitting hook Messi swung at Athletic Bilbao‘s goal-scoring, beard-growing, trumpet-playing striker Asier Villalibre.

In road combating phrases, you’d name it a rabbit punch. And when Messi noticed the primary pink card of his total Barcelona profession, there cannot be any query, in any respect, that referee Gil Manzano, albeit helped by video repetition, obtained the choice proper. No suspicion that man from Don Benito in Badajoz, down in Spain’s south west, was a memento collector. The kind of referee who says to himself: “Proper, outdated son, this night time I’ll go down on historical past for being the primary individual ever to ship Messi off in a Barcelona match. Historical past beckons!”

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No, there isn’t any query that Messi misplaced his mood, took a swing and related then was ordered to take the lengthy, solo, embarrassing stroll to the dressing room (for under the fourth time in his total profession, extra of which later) for simply trigger.

Not even the forged, scriptwriters and tense jury room ambiance of “12 Indignant Males” (Sir Alex Ferguson’s favorite movie, if you happen to care to know) may have gotten Messi off on a not responsible verdict.

And what’s extra, it’s important to hand the Argentina worldwide much more credit score.

Not solely was it certain to be spectacular when he lastly acquired his marching orders for Barca. there additionally was certain to be a way of real “timing” when it occurred.

With little or no time left of a ding-dong, see-saw Supercopa last that ultimately introduced Athletic Membership solely their second main trophy in 37 years, this specific piece of timing was dramatic sufficient. As I’ve identified, it occurred when that Messi of the ages would usually be scoring or creating the 3-3 purpose to take the ultimate to penalties.

However this season, of all seasons, it needed to occur — did not it?

If Messi’s miraculous on-pitch persistence wasn’t working empty, nagging at him to blow up and to hunt private vengeance by now, then it will by no means occur. Ever.

From the sacking of Ernesto Valverde, nearly precisely a 12 months in the past, via the clown circus of Quique Setien’s hapless time in cost, by way of an almighty walloping by the hands of Bayern Munich, an operatically tragic try to give up the membership he loves, together with that Burofax and the unstated risk of courtroom motion, the weeks of mutual hackle-bristling between Messi and Ronald Koeman — like all nice cinematic affairs — was abruptly turning into a real bromance. And with a trophy having been, actually, solely seconds away from making this the honey-sweetest starting to what may nonetheless change into his final handful of months at Camp Nou, however then dramatically slipping away within the ninetieth minute … when else was Messi going to be red-carded?

Actually, I ask you?

Nonetheless, it is time to set one other couple of elements of the document straight.

Firstly, referee Manzano, the person from Don Benito, will get an “help” on this course of. No, I am not recanting; the pink card was totally justified.

However his refereeing was as if he had been a refugee from the 1968 summer season of affection, flowers in his hair, these spherical evenly tinted John Lennon-style specs, a guitar slung over his shoulder and a ticket to Woodstock protruding of his feather-decorated leather-based waistcoat pocket.

Manzano took a “Hey man, it is all groovy” strategy all night time as Athletic’s gamers utilized a shrewd, not unusual, however wholly unlawful strategy to disrupting each Barcelona’s and Messi’s rhythm.

A foul, a nudge, a pull of the jersey, a visit — it began very early on with Iker Muniain, who dedicated at the least three bookable offences however wasn’t yellow-carded as soon as.

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“Peace love and happiness” was Manzano’s perspective. A waggle of the finger, a raised eyebrow or, at his sternest, a “Hey bro! You are harshing the vibe man!” reprimand.

It may need made Joni Mitchell’s lip quiver, however no one else’s. Least of all of the intelligent, preprogrammed and magnificently decided Athletic gamers.

It wasn’t brutal, it wasn’t uncommon, and (the purpose is) Messi has been struggling this for what’s getting near 900 skilled matches.

However wait, there’s extra. The precise sending off, that momentous picture of this little genius traipsing off having let his facet down, having let his guard down, additionally instructed a story of what Manzano may wish to mirror on as what’s occurred sinks in.

The motion comes as Barcelona are mounting an assault. You may name it, had been you script penning this, “a final, determined assault.” From 2-1 up within the ninetieth minute, they’re now teetering on the sting of dropping (to an Athletic Membership who, frankly, deserve the trophy for some completely excellent willpower, ability and chutzpah) and there are mere seconds left.

Messi, unfit due to hamstring issues in the course of the semifinal, has performed effectively beneath par; nevertheless it’s factual that he helped create the 1-0 purpose for Antoine Griezmann. and he’s sufficient of a risk for Athletic to have systematically tried to bump him, tug at him or journey him.

Because the essential second comes, Messi has sprayed a beautiful ball to the left, releasing Jordi Alba, and it is one other sort of “signature” second.

Consider all of the commentaries you’ve got listened to since 2012: “Messi … to Alba flying down the left wing … Alba takes the ball, he cuts it again to the sting of the penalty space aaaaaaanddd Meesssiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Aim, purpose, purpose!”

You bear in mind them, proper? Effectively, so does Villalibre.

As Messi tries to hare off in pursuit of what is going to be a cutback move from Alba, Villalibre (who already has been booked) remembers the script.

It is solely an opinion, however I am going to wager he remembers the tactical briefing the Athletic squad have all had within the days main as much as this sport: “DO NOT LET MESSI RUN FREELY ONTO AN ALBA CUTBACK, AT ANY COST.”

And so the striker, who’ll later appeal the soccer world by celebrating the trophy together with his teammates by producing his trumpet and enjoying victory songs, tries to place a full physique test on Messi in what the is aware of, if noticed, will imply a pink card for him, not Messi.

Solely this time, Messi does what you, I or any regular individual would have achieved many, many seasons in the past: He lets disappointment, frustration, the sense of burning injustice overwhelm him, and he takes a swing.

Stream Copa del Rey matches on ESPN+ (U.S. solely)

He was within the mistaken. It was a pink card motion. Athletic deserved, general, to win the ultimate. All these are details.

However when Manzano goes to take a look at the video, he does half a job. He’s undoubtedly conscious that so much rides on this, he has been instructed that Messi took a swing at an opponent and he’s working over with that in thoughts.

He appears on the repeated motion and fully ignores the truth that Villalibre’s motion was wholly unlawful and that he too needed to be despatched off.

Emblematic of the referee’s night time, emblematic of Athletic’s “we all know give ourselves the sting” perspective.

When Messi was first red-carded in senior soccer, it was a chunk of absolute, utter nonsense: Argentina vs. Hungary in August 2005.

The child, nonetheless an unquantified genius quite than the 24-karat article he’d in a short time change into, was on the pitch 90 seconds earlier than Vilmos Vanczak to start with tried to hack him down, then almost tugged his shirt off his again till Messi tried to free himself and was judged, ludicrously, by referee Markus Merk to have dedicated a sending-off offence.

I would prefer to suppose that Merk buys Messi candies and flowers yearly on the anniversary to attempt to make amends.

The opposite? Copa America 2019 — Chile‘s Gary Medel tries to head-butt him twice, Messi merely stands his floor, they go chest to chest and each get reds from the Paraguayan referee — someplace between the clear lower of the Supercopa and the clear comedy of that Hungary pleasant 15 years in the past.

“Medel is a participant who at all times performs proper to the boundaries of the regulation and he is provocative, however I did not suppose both of us merited a pink card,” Messi mentioned afterward.

There have been different moments when this beckoned. Bear in mind the UEFA Supercup Remaining between Barcelona and Shakhtar in 2009?

He positively put his brow onto Darijo Srna‘s nostril however was pardoned by referee Frank De Bleeckere when he in all probability should not have been.

Through the years, I recall a number of the place Messi too has been on the outer limits of staying on the pitch. He is no angel.

However from the primary day I watched him, for Barcelona B in Autumn 2003, till at this time, I’ve seen opponents kick, tug, barge, assault, provoke and attempt to injury him.

One of many first questions I ever requested him (by then it was 2005): “You get kicked on a regular basis however you by no means react. Are you made of business rubber?”

He instructed me, then, that, early in matches, he may really feel the ache and discomfort, however as soon as a contest was in full movement, he was so determined to get the ball and affect the consequence that he barely felt any of it.

But what he feels most keenly, particularly now, is a way of loss, a way of additional nice achievements doubtlessly slipping away, a way of “the place have all the nice occasions gone” and I’ve little question a way that Father Time is beginning to scythe at him simply as dangerously as any opponent ever has.

So when Villalibre, loveable for his beard, his Ron Swanson from “Parks and Recreation” impersonation, his terrific equaliser on this dramatic last and for his magical trumpet voluntary as soon as the cup was in Basque palms, added slightly streetwise bodychecking to his repertoire, I discover it little to surprise at that Messi, lastly, snapped.

Justice wasn’t achieved as a result of the referee allowed the temperature to boil up and over thanks to picking flower energy over card energy, justice wasn’t achieved as a result of Villalibre did not get a second reserving.

However, Leo, outdated chum, justice was achieved to your right-hook rabbit punch.

It has been a very long time coming, I genuinely do not understand how you stored your mood till now. However the subsequent few video games you miss due to suspension for violent conduct, effectively, you earned them, all proper.

And now that this has occurred, if you happen to thought they had been out to impress you earlier than, simply watch what comes subsequent.



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