By Luca Caioli
Corinthian/Icon Books – £7.99

Having had twenty minutes off since the conclusion of an essentially disappointing World Cup (in which Spain were admittedly fab), football has returned with a vengeance. Well, perhaps not so much a vengeance as an assortment of extremely gifted individuals, bequeathing the masses with their unique, ubiquitous and undeniable talent(s).

Suffice to say, every football fan throughout the land will have his or her take upon whom such quintessential laudability be deftly placed. Tevez? Drogba? Walcott? The list is perhaps endless, but for me, I’d have to go with the whiz-kid sensation that was FIFA Player of the Year 2009 and European Footballer of the Year, Lionel Messi.

The twenty-two year olds’ stunning goal against a smug Manchester United in last year’s European Championship Final alone, warrants the above accolades; but so far as this very readable is concerned, the tiny Argentinean is beyond compare – with the possible exception of one.

In Chapter twenty-seven ‘Leo and Diego,’ author Luca Caioli writes: ‘’Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger has no doubts. ‘Messi is like Maradona but with a turbo attached to his feet […]. And Franz Beckenbauer: ‘ When we see him run with the ball we are reminded of Diego Maradona at his best, with good reason.’ Some do not deny the parallels, but they have words of warning for Messi. ‘Between Messi and Maradona,’ maintains Hector ‘El Negro’ Enrique, ’86 World Champion with Argentina, ‘there are two things they have in common: their running style and their speed. Diego has that run and that short sprint, which makes mincemeat of you, and it’s difficult to take the ball off Leo. On top of that, he doesn’t just shoot for the sake of shooting, rather, he looks for the far post and dodges from right to left like Diego. The bad thing is not that he’s compared to Maradona, but that Leo believes he is Maradona.’’

Herein, I have to disagree, for as much as a genius as Maradona once was, he’s also totally bonkers. Messi on the other hand, appears as calm and as level headed as your average geologist in a dodgy jumper. Nothing but nothing seems to faze him. For as much as he loves his football, he’s not a prize peacock like Beckham, nor an illiterate potato head like Rooney.

On the other hand, no author is going to write about anything remotely damaging in relation to their on-going career or relationship with their subject, especially one as high profile as Leo Messi.

And Caioli is no exception.

Upon reading this meticulously well-researched, down-to-earth and very timely book on surely the world’s greatest (current) player, I couldn’t help but feel I was reading the truth – which in this day and age of footballing frolics, tabloid titillation and sexual spin, is refreshing to say the least.

Like the player, Messi is an exceedingly cute little number.

David Marx


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