We know that at Barcelona, where he began as a right winger he has long had a licence to roam, to the extreme discomfiture of opposition defences, who cannot be sure of whence he is coming?
Diego Maradona, explosive and controversial manager of Argentina in 2010, “exiled” Messi to the left flank where he made only a modest impact though when interviewed after the tournament he perhaps predictably insisted that he had done well enough.
There were whispers that Maradona, such a World Cup star himself, was envious of Messi’s fame and wanted to marginalise him.
So it is somewhat ironic that one of the Argentina attackers likely to keep Messi out of the middle is that prolific Manchester City forward, Sergio Aguero, devastating again for Manchester City in their 6-0 crushing of Spurs, who just happens to be the son-in-law of Diego Maradona.
As for Tottenham, it could be that Andre Villas Boas’ position is in peril. He had a valid psychological point in blaming the devastatingly embarrassing 14 second goal conceded by the ineptitude and folly of his costly (now in every sense) international goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris as a crucial factor in his team’s demise. Yet it could also be argued that to concede a goal as early as that still gave his team almost the whole game to put things right.
“We were affected by conceding after 14 seconds,” he said. Of course they were, yet what does the subsequent collapse say for his team’s morale? And how come that Andres Townsend, who has made such a spectacular start for England, did not even get on the pitch? He was hardly in need of rest after his two appearances for England only one of which entailed the full game.
By contrast the £30 million Argentine Erik Lamela, who, poor fellow, had a wretched game, deployed on the left flank, stayed on the field throughout. And he cost £30 million.
Tony Pulis now takes over at Crystal Palace where one waits to see how and he former Stoke City striker Cameron Jerome will get on.
Last weekend Jerome came on as substitute for Crystal Palace at Hull and engineered a splendid and surprising winning goal for a struggling team reduced to ten men by a sending off.
Now Jerome, who fell out badly with Pulis at Stoke and was openly critical of him, tactfully says, “Under the new manager, we look forward to being more resilient. It isn’t a big ask to stay up.”
An olive branch but will Pulis accept it? Personally I’d have been pleased to see Keith Millen, the reserve team manager under whom the team had so notably picked itself up off the canvas, stay in control, but he didn’t want the job. So now will Pulis want him?
In his many years at Stoke Pulis was responsible for what might be called pragmatic football. All physical commitment and long balls.
The hub of a robust defence is still the blonde Ryan Sharcross whose horrific challenge, if you will excuse the euphemism, put Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey out for a year. I’m delighted now to see Ramsey in such ebullient form, since as a teenager he came on as a belated substitute in the FA Cup Final for Cardiff against Portsmouth and worked small worked precocious wonders. After his shocking injury he plainly needed time to recover his old form, and now he triumphantly has.
Refereeing in the Premiership is increasingly erratic. Should Wayne Rooney has been sent off for that blatant kick at Cardiff’s Jordon Mutch? Neither manager thought so, but the general verdict was for expulsion. Even if late in the game Chile and Cardiff’s Medel for swiping Marouane Fellaini? Referee Neil Swarbrick sent off neither. While at Goodison Everton’s Kevin Mirallas should surely have been expelled by referee Phil Dowd for dangerously fouling Louis Suarez.