Paul Parker

Magical Messi a special talent

Paul Parker

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Lionel Messi is one of the
few players in world football who justifies the entrance fee on a consistent basis.

He is the kind of player
fans love to see and he manages to produce the goods week in, week out.

If Cristiano Ronaldo hadn't scored 42 goals last season, Messi would already
be World Player of the Year and he is the clear frontrunner this season.

He has all the skills and
tricks of Ronaldo, but he manages to do it all naturally without doing the
chopstick dance. Everything he does has a purpose, rather than doing it for show.

I'm
not sure he would be quite as good over here simply because of the way English
teams play. I don't
think he would have a problem on the physical side, but most Premier
League teams would struggle to get him enough of the ball in the right
areas as they do
not have passers of the quality of Xavi and Andres Iniesta.

The only team where he could
thrive is probably Arsenal, as they do refuse to compromise their attacking
play and slick passing - he needs to play alongside players with the technical ability
of Cesc Fabregas and Andrei Arshavin.

Of course there is a lot of
talk about Messi ahead of Barcelona's Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, but I wouldn't call it hype because that is a term applied to
players who don't cut it.

Every time he gets on the
ball you can see how exciting and skilful he is, so I don't
think anyone would be disappointed by him even if he doesn't have a brilliant game. An average Messi is still
streets ahead of most players at their very best.

Eyebrows are often raised by
the wages paid to players, and understandably so. A £120,000-a-week centre half
might help you win matches, but he very rarely does anything to entertain the
fans and lift you off your seat.

Whatever Messi gets paid, he
is worth every penny, and I'm sure
he will be great to watch against Chelsea.

I think the current Barcelona team is even
better than the side that I saw first hand when they beat Manchester United 4-0 in
1994. That side had tremendous individuals
like Romario, Hristo Stoichkov and Ronald Koeman, but I think the present side
would have the measure of them.

Factors like improved pitches,
fitness and refereeing that favours attackers mean that teams can play at a
tempo they simply couldn't manage 15
years ago.

As recently as 1994,
even that star-studded Barcelona
team was relatively unknown on these shores because we did not get the saturation coverage we
do nowadays. I can watch Barcelona
every week if I want, and I often do, and the big foreign sides play our clubs
so often in Europe that we know them as well
as some Premier League teams.

When I started playing we
very rarely got to see the top European teams in action even though English
players like Ray Wilkins, Trevor Francis and Mark Hateley were abroad. Then Paul Gascoigne's move to Lazio brought Serie A onto our screens
and the coverage of the foreign game has not looked back since.

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