Last summer, during the FIFA World Cup Finals in Russia, I wrote this piece about Lionel Messi, the Barcelona and Argentina footballer. I observed that in several hundreds of hours spent watching Messi and his rival Ronaldo playing for their respective clubs on TV I had never seen Messi score a goal in live play. I had seen him score in highlights packages and other recordings but never while watching a match live and direct, either for Barcelona (in La Liga or the Champions League) or for Argentina (in the World Cup). I had seen Ronaldo score plenty of goals live on TV, going back to his time in English football with Manchester United, but not Messi.
Since that piece was published, Ronaldo has moved from Real Madrid. He now plays for Juventus. I caught a few minutes of their game on Tuesday night, overturning a 2-0 deficit from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid. They won 3-0 on the night, 3-2 on aggregate. Ronaldo scored a hat-trick. He scored while I was watching, even though I was switching back and forth between that game and Manchester City’s 7-0 (yes, SEVEN-nil) win against Schalke.
Yesterday evening, my 12-year-old daughter and I were watching the first half of Barcelona’s quarter-final second leg tie against Lyon. The first leg, in Lyon, had finished goalless. During the first 15 minutes Messi had a couple of chances. The commentator got excited, as always, but neither chance led to a goal. I reminded my daughter that Messi had never scored while I was watching. Then Barcelona were awarded a penalty. Messi got ready to take it. My daughter wanted him to score. I asked her if she wanted me to leave the room, to increase his chances, but we agreed that I should stay. During Argentina’s game against Iceland last summer I was in the room to see Messi’s penalty saved by Halldórsson. This time round he beat the Lyon keeper Lopes, with a Panenka. My daughter has seen enough football to know what a Panenka is, though I’m not sure if she has seen the original example from the 1976 European Championships. You can see it for yourself here, the goal that won that tournament for Czechoslovakia. I can now report that the Messi hoodoo is over: I have finally seen him score a goal in a game being broadcast live on TV.
Mind you, it was only a penalty. I still haven’t seen him score from open play. He did so during the second half of last night’s game, but I wasn’t watching. By then my daughter had gone to bed, and my son had switched from the football to see the recording of “Masterchef” from earlier in the evening. It included a dessert made with chocolate, coconut and peas. But that’s another story.