“You Are Not Done Yet”: An Open Letter To Lionel Messi

Posted on July 20, 2016 in Sports

By Amlan Jyoti Chaudhuri:

I am writing you this letter neither as your fan, which I actually am, nor as a hater which many are. I am writing to you as a true football fan who feels that a huge void has been created due to your untimely surprise exit from the national football team. It is evident that recently you have failed to stand up to your own expectations that you would love to adhere to. The failure to live up to the dream might have prompted you to take this decision. Nevertheless, from your departure, none are getting benefitted apart from your opponents who will have ‘all the marbles’. However, the worst blow has been given to the sport itself. A stroke of inspiration is in order. For illustration, look into the pages of history, the great R9 returned from his four-year doom period and led Brazil to its fifth World Cup title with a performance which got engraved into the minds of millions, including me.

I had started watching football from the early 2000s, have grown up watching football giants like Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy and Spain play their top game. But as we set foot into the latter half of the second decade of the 21st-century, it seems as if the quality of football today, has moved on and become quite diminished. This is by far the worst phase in the 21st-century for football as a sport. If you see the current status of all the football giants mentioned above, apart from Germany who are the reigning world champions, all the other nations are going through a transition phase. Either they have a squad of inexperienced players who by far are no match for their predecessors or are still relying on their veteran players who are on the verge of retirement. There is a long, hard struggle ahead if the all-time greats want to re-establish themselves as major contenders for global competitions.

Brazil has young talent, however, the present squad is obviously far from its best at the moment. It is perhaps the worst in history in my opinion. The Samba style of football, which I have grown up watching, could not be revived by the Brazilian squad after the 3Rs, Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho retired.

‘Catenaccio’, whereby a team strongly defends to absorb pressure before launching a counter-attack, has been popularised by the Italians. However, without the likes of a good playmaker like Pirlo and solid defenders like Cannavaro, the present Italian squad, though being spectacular in the recent Euro Cup, is no way close to the 2006 World Cup squad.

‘Tiki-taka’, i.e., maintaining possession of the ball which is its defining characteristic is dead by now. Spain had ruled this sport for about six years from 2008 by winning the World Cup and two consecutive Euro Cups. However, their early sendoff in the 2014 World Cup and their present performance in the recent Euro signifies that tiki-taka is a thing of the past. Veteran players, with age being not on their side and no proper young talent in the squad has made Spain a mere shadow of their former self.

The last time Argentina had won the world cup was in 1986. However, Argentina has always been one of the top contenders even in the 21st-century due to players like Batistuta, Riquelme, Zanetti and of course you. Now, with you exiting the team, the current Argentine team is surely seeing its darkest days, and the coming 2018 World Cup is surely going to be devastating as they are without their leader and as of now, no one in the squad is competent enough to fill your shoes.

The upcoming 2018 World Cup now is supposedly going to be the least star-studded event in its entire history, be it in terms of the quality of players or their impact on mainstream pop culture. If the top players of today in every position are compared with the top players of the last decade, we will see a stark dearth of talent in present day football.

1. Forward: In my opinion, Ronaldo and Henry are the best strikers to set foot on the field in this century and after their departure, no one has been competent enough to replace them. No one, except you. In my opinion, you are at par with them if not better than them. But, after you, I feel, Cristiano Ronaldo, by seeing his stats and individual achievements, is the only living personality in this sport to join their league. Zlatan is great, but nowhere close to these legends. He cannot even make his team qualify for the World Cup and his team also got knocked out in the group stages in this Euro Cup. At the age of 34, it’s also evident that he has passed his prime.

2. Midfield: When it comes to midfield, only three names come to mind who I have grown up watching. Zidane, Ronaldinho and Figo. We have great midfielders now, like Robben but he is nowhere close to these three in terms of dominance. Iniesta is the only saving grace in today’s generation, but seeing his age, it’s high time we look for young protégés. One of them is Neymar, who as per the critics is said to have a similar playing style as that of Ronaldinho with both possessing the same grace and guile as they ghost past their baffled opponents. Neymar will have big shoes to fill and time will tell whether we will be able to possibly compare with the numbers and memories that Ronaldinho has put up.

3. Defense: I have been fortunate enough to follow a few of the best defenders not only of the 21st-century but of all time like Maldini, Nesta, Cannavaro and Cafu. Though we have elegant stoppers presently, like Kompany, Thiago Silva, Lahm and Ramos, all are at least 30 years old and no upcoming star can be witnessed in the defense scene who can replace them and none come close to the all-time greats.

4. After watching Kahn, Buffon and Casillas, not many goalkeepers have crossed my mind who are presently in action apart from Neuer. Neuer is the only goalkeeper today who can not only surpass these three but has the potential to be the absolute best. However, leaving him aside, no one has the skills and talent to be remembered for long. No wonder, at the age of 38, Buffon is still considered one of the top goalkeepers today.

So, you see, the present condition of football is going through a not-so-happy phase, and you leaving the national team has made it shoddier. Of course, new stars will emerge because hype abhors a vacuum but for those that know what they are watching, the upcoming world cup won’t be quite the same.

Hence, Messi, let the storm display its inherent nature and come back with the spirit within. Age is on your side and the world cup is the only coveted prize left which the whole world wants to see you conquer. So, get out of the panic room, reload the mental battery, and get back your old ignited mind because there is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Return, win, but do not leave, because I know, you know and the entire world knows that you are not done yet!

Featured image credit: Elsa/Getty Images.
Banner image credit: Bob Levey/Getty Images.