Devaney: Messi Judged By Unfair Standard

Lionel Messi has played this World Cup – and much of his career – in the shadow of Diego Maradona

The DA Show
June 26, 2018 - 12:13 pm

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The 2018 World Cup has been captivating and exciting – unless you’re a fan of Argentina, which tied Iceland 1-1 and lost 3-0 to Croatia. 

Yes, after advancing to the World Cup Final in 2014, Lionel Messi and Argentina might not even survive group play. What has happened to them? And to Messi, in particular? He has, at times, looked despondent.

“First of all, they defer to (Messi),” soccer podcast host JJ Devaney said in-studio on The DA Show. “The ball has to come to him. It comes into the center, it crowds the play – there’s no real plan other than did we get the ball to Messi. But the body language thing, I’ve never seen Messi as this effusive Ronaldinho-style player who always has a smile on his face. But certainly it was disturbing to see the national anthems being played and he is massaging in the most stressed way possible his forehead – like as if he’s going to federal jail, like something huge has befallen him.”

Messi, clearly, is under immense pressure. Unfortunately, it appears he’s caved under it.

“The Argentinian media and the fan base has bought into this idea that the 33 titles he’s won, the representation he’s given Argentinian soccer on the world stage with Barcelona, means nothing if he doesn’t win a World Cup and match El Diego,” said Devaney, host of Caught Offside. “Maradona has this famous clip on YouTube where he’s warming for a game (in the late-1980s), he’s got his training track suit on and he’s bouncing the ball on his head and he just looks so free and at ease with himself. And it goes to Messi where Messi’s got the hunched shoulders and he looks detached, away, locked in his own mind. I’m thinking, ‘How unfair is that. Thirty years ago. Two different people.’”

Indeed, Messi has played much of his career in Maradona’s shadow – despite being arguably more successful.

“Messi, in terms of winning things, leaves Diego Maradona in the shade,” Devaney said. “But Maradona has the World Cup. And it’s all culminated into this massive pressure that’s on Messi.”

DA likened it to Sidney Crosby winning several Stanley Cups but never winning a gold medal for Canada in the Olympics – and Canadians disowning him.

“Imagine Sidney Crosby spent the bulk of his teenage years, his formative years, away from the country to which he would represent – and that’s what happened with Messi, too,” Devaney said. “There’s been this kind of skeptical view of him because he sent so much time as a development of Spanish football, as a development of the Barcelona academy. So is there a detachment? Is he one of our own? Whereas Diego is in the stands, he’s smoking cigars, we can watch the highlights of that great goal against England, the way he took apart Belgium – the whole thing. And Messi doesn’t have that, which, it’s an unfair standard to judge him on – and it’s a standard journalists should stop trying to push him toward.”