Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lionel and Barry

Lionel Messi has always reminded me of Barry Sanders. Part of it is their size--both are much shorter not only than their would-be tacklers, but also their offensive contemporaries. Part of it is the way they often seem to absorb contact and transfer the kinetic energy to the ground without letting it substantially alter their progress. And part of it, a big part, is the subtlety of their movements. Sanders was famous for his acrobatics in avoiding tacklers, but I also remember the way he would make one quick hesitation in the open field, follow that up with the slightest change of direction, and then all of a sudden there would be five yards of space between the safety and him, where a second ago their was just one. Messi can be an acrobat too, but his goal above was an example of that second trait. The defenders were caught lead-footed, but the move was fantastically subtle: just one quick opening of the hips, a 30 degree shift in direction, and suddenly he has a wide open look at the keeper and time to pick his spot.

Ronaldo also had a hat-trick on Saturday, though two of them came on penalties. His one goal in open play was rather typical of Ronaldo: running as hard as he could (which is quite hard indeed) to the keeper's right, and kicking it as hard as he could (which is harder still) through the keeper's legs. It was an impressive feat of athleticism, but it was, particularly in light of the display of genius that was to come an hour or so later, a bit plain, somehow.

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