A calendar year may be finite but Lionel Messi’s limitations in 2012 would be anything but. 91 goals is an impressive feat regardless of the quality of the competition; Messi’s goals were spread across Europe as well as for the Argentinean national side. Such is the brilliance of the Barcelona number 10 that it has often felt appropriate to coin a new superlative in order to do justice to his achievements and separate him from the majority.
For many, Messi is the Pele of his generation, perhaps better, depending upon who you ask. Regardless, it is unanimous that he is a special player exuding brilliance at the height of his game. Though such unrivalled quality, as South African athlete Caster Semenya may tell you, is often greeted with an ounce of scepticism by those not convinced that what they see is what they get; there would be those who may suggest that what Messi has got was given to him under unnatural circumstances.
It is no secret that, as a young boy, Messi suffered from a condition known as growth hormone deficiency; a diagnosis that accounted for his strikingly diminutive stature as a child. Fourteen years on, Messi’s slightness has become part of his charm. However, before he was even an adolescent, concerns mounted over his physicality on the pitch. The steroid injections required to ensure a young Messi didn’t become a wasted talent were funded by Barcelona after the club’s personnel director Carles Rexach became convinced, and similarly assured those in high places in Catalonia, that a floppy haired Argentinean was worth a punt.
Ask any coach and they would support Messi by stating that natural talent cannot be bought or affected, only nurtured. The culmination of Messi’s finest year has by chance coincided with one of the greatest furores in sporting history; an injustice sparked by Lance Armstrong’s doping. One of cycling’s most prestigious participants has, rightly, had his once great name tainted after allegations of cheating were revealed to be true. The powers that be in cycling asserted that Armstrong “deserves to be forgotten”, so why is Messi’s steroid use dismissed so nonchalantly?
The answer appears a fairly simple one; Messi was at a significant disadvantage to those around him before the injections. He was merely trying to compete on a level playing field, rather than, like Armstrong, pull away from the competition through unnatural means. Messi remains one of the world’s most loved and most watched players because he has an, almost, unrivalled natural genius.
Home video footage on YouTube of a 10-year-old Messi working his magic on a 5-a-side pitch corroborates that his genius is pure and that the steroids that he would ultimately consume were not to improve him technically, rather to allow him to fulfil his potential. His taking of steroids has not been kept under wraps because he has done nothing wrong.That is why, in many people’s eyes, he remains one of football’s greatest gifts.