*** All words by Dan Fabre ***
The UEFA Champions League Final. The showpiece. Tomorrow.
It’s a special day in football and especially so for me. As a Liverpool fan, I can climb out of the hole that was the 2014-15 season and watch a cracking game of football.
On Saturday night, I shall watch without having to shit myself when Dejan Lovren gets the ball. He won’t be getting the ball. Because it’s the Champions League final and Lovren couldn’t play in one of those even if he lived in Messi’s left testical for a year.
Ahh, Lionel Messi. The best there is, the best there was, and that’s the end of it. I’ll not entertain an argument for Cristiano Ronaldo. It isn’t happening.
Ronnie had the edge in the calendar years of 2013 and 2014. He got the two Ballon D’Ors that he fully deserved. He was in the form of his life and Messi had dropped off a bit. After seeing Messi on top for so long, it was refreshing to see someone else holding that enormous golden ball in the air.
Ronaldo probably worked about as hard as I would have if I had spent the last four years seeing my arch-nemesis hailed as superior. Okay, probably a bit harder than I would have.
Thing is, Messi was named the best player in the world for four consecutive years. He has played alongside Ronaldinho, Henry, Eto’o, Xavi, Iniesta, Ibrahimović and more. In a galaxy of stars, Messi shines brightest.
Since Cristiano moved to Real Madrid, Messi has more goals than his rival. More assists. More key passes. More successful dribbles. Less hair gel. And moaning.
Even if he’s not scoring goals, Messi can be the best player on the pitch. His eye for a pass is pinpoint. His ability to retain complete control of the ball whilst sprinting is alien. His accuracy from dead ball situations is mesmerising. His seamless retention of the ball is unfair.
Leo’s footballing ability and intelligence is unrivalled. Remove his jet shoes and devastating finishing ability and he’d still be as good as Iniesta. Admittedly, this is not falsifiable. Remove the attributes of pace and finishing from Cristiano, you’d be left with an in-form James Milner.
If Messi doesn’t score, you can bet your mother that either Suárez or Neymar will. That triumvirate is capable of the obscenely delightful. As an attacking force, they’re up there with the best front three of all time. They’ll be the difference in this game.
There will be no white flag from Turin, however. The Old Lady has shown she still has tricks up her proverbial sleeve.
Arturo Vidal is a midfield warrior. Paul Pogba seemingly has his pick of Europe’s super-clubs once the transfer window opens (if you’re going into this game not knowing too much about him, he’s like the 22-year-old lovechild of Zidane and Yaya Touré).
Then there’s the matter of their veterans. Andrea Pirlo, Italy’s finest wine, will want to roll back the years and conduct what is likely his last Final. Gianluigi Buffon shall guard the sticks. We all know what the mercurial Carlos Tevez is capable of.
They’re an organised team that defends well, moves the ball efficiently and can score all manner of goals. There are real stars in this Juve team. But how do you stop the unstoppable?
SkyBet are offering odds on a Barca victory at 1/3. It’s a good bet. I can see the Old Lady failing to score. With the attacking trio that Barca possesses, it is difficult to see them not hitting the back of the net.
Significant absences this weekend will be Georgio Chiellini for Juve and Andres Iniesta for Barca, who both miss out through injury.
Ultimately, I won’t be disappointed either way. It would be rad to see a different team win it and everyone loves an underdog so I’ll be happy if Juventus manage it. If Barcelona wins, then they will have earned the trophy that their intoxicating brand of football deserves. Either way, someone’s clinching a pretty historic treble.
I apologise if I appear to be underplaying Juve’s chances in this game. I just suspect that the game will be a lot like this article – mostly about Lionel Messi.