Lionel Messi: The Messiah From Camp Nou

After a week in which FC Barcelona sacked their sporting director, Andoni Zubizarreta, and Carles Puyol left the club, and less than a month since the director general was sacked, the president, Josep María Bartomeu, announced Luis Enrique will continue as the coach. But he also announced the presidential election will be brought forward a year to this summer. In other words, no one’s future is secure - least of all his own.

And what, everyone wanted to know, of Lionel Messi, the man who has stood silently at the heart of the gathering storm over the last few days. It is his departure that concerns them. Many fans want others to leave; Messi leaving frightens them. Messi is not an angel, and that's OK, he shouldn't have to be. Recent events have shown as much. There have been countless reports, theories and evaluations, after Enrique committed the unholy transgression of benching Messi for the match against Real Sociedad.

Cesc Fabregas, who swapped the Camp Nou for Stamford Bridge last summer, also believes the reports about Messi’s current situation at Barcelona are wide of the mark. He stated, “I don’t know Luis Enrique. I do know Leo and I doubt very much that what is being said is happening, because he’s a very relaxed guy and I’ve never seen any of that in the three years we spent together. Messi is happy at Barca and they are happy with him.”

Whatever you choose to believe, whether Messi and Enrique had a heated confrontation or that Messi actually was sick, the evidence indicate that the Argentine was highly upset by his benching and showed it - the cameras focused at him on the bench revealed as much. This altercation and the small event of Messi inferring that he may not finish his career at Barcelona has been like a stream of blood from a capsized boater to a school of piranhas. It's as if the great mob has finally found the swamp of the ogre, once thought mythical.

Part of it is the fault of Barcelona's holier-than-thou club motto and their general elitism in world football. When Messi came into his own, he was heralded as more evidence of La Masia's mystical powers of producing world-class talent, along with Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Jeffren, Bojan, Tello and so on.  He was the quiet, shy superstar. The humble one, the meek boy who spent all of his time with his family.

As we know, you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain. For the past few years, there has seemed to be a hanging verdict over Messi's head. The silly truth is that Messi's behavior is so common among elite athletes that it's frankly boring: Cristiano Ronaldo himself had his own bust-ups and disagreements with Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson. SAF himself had fiery confrontations with everyone from Roy Keane to the British Adonis, David Beckham. Guti openly refused to listen and insulted Manuel Pellegrini during a match. The Chelsea old-guard practically ran Andre Villas-Boas out of town.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, during his time at Milan, laughed in Max Allegri's face because he didn't feel that the manager was intelligent. Paul Scholes refused to board a team bus for a league cup game because he was left out against Liverpool the previous weekend. Even the angelic Mesut Ozil had stare-downs with Mourinho. Any player that you identify has probably had his moments of arrogance, petulance and anger. It is normal. Anyone who has been on an organized sports team will tell you that it is even more commonplace than the general population realizes.

It seems that Messi is not allowed that distinction, though. It's the darkest side of idolization. He was elevated to such a high pedestal of morality because of his meek nature that it was always going to be a long fall once frustration set in. He's fallen from grace, though he never asked for the blessing in the first place. That's where the main problem resides. Dehumanization is of two extremes - belittling or idolizing someone. With each one, you strip the person of their nature as human beings and the allowance to share in the flaws and triumphs as a complex creature.

And because of Messi's silent nature when it comes to making the news, people start to fill his silences with their own thoughts and conspiracies, which gives birth to streams of stories about his behavior. If he doesn't denounce them, then they must be true, it seems. The carnivorous mob was bound to devour Messi eventually. His guard was always going to come down; age has a way of revealing the persons behind the mask. Messi is not the first that it's happened to and he definitely won't be the last to be raised up by the people and then torn down when they see his position, the same one they pushed him to, as demeaning. It will be just as silly reflectively in the future as it is now.

Source: Associate Press, Fox News, The Guardian, The Telegraph

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