Madness and magic from Maradona’s motherland
If you think that Lio had a lot to live up to in his father’s eyes when Mr. Messi named his son after his favourite singer, then spare a thought for Enzo Zidane.
With a surname like that he was already going to be first choice in the playground kick about, but Zizou senior thought that junior needed a bit more motivation to become a footballer.
So it was that Enzo was named after one of papa’s idol, Francescoli - the Prince - the Uruguayan striker considered one of River Plate’s finest players ever.
And so it is that the 15 year old, who is on Real Madrid’s books, has one hell of a job living up to the expectation that comes with having a name drawn from two seperate legends rolled into one.
Judging by the roulettes, goals, technique and way he carries the team, he might, just might, be up to it.
But while Enzo Fernández works his way up the youth ranks (as with Michael Laudrup’s son, Madrid dropped the attention-grabbing surname), Zidane and his idol have got together and are looking for the next world superstar.
After four brilliant goals against Arsenal, it is fair to say they are looking for the next Messi.
Preparation is afoot for Football Cracks - a reality show, not an X-rated Footballers Wives - to take place in Spain, where a group of 50 hopefuls will be whittled down to one winner.
He who wins will take the prize of a guaranteed pre-season with a yet-to-be-named first division side and the chance to earn a contract.
The idea, however, is that several players emerge from the show, not just the winner. "Don’t forget that David Bisbal didn’t win Operación Trifunfo," one of the organisers said during the trials held in Buenos Aires this week.
Argie Bargy knew what point he was trying to make and nodded in agreement, but then shuddered at the flashback of Ave María.
Around 2,000 17-22 years olds tried to impress scouts this week in Argentina, while in total 50,000 are expected to enter the competition with players from China, USA, Mexico, all over Latin America and Europe.
For players in countries such as Argentina, a competition like this is the opportunity of a lifetime – a chance to play professional football, and to do so abroad.
One psychologist who worked with the Argentina youth team players once asked the youngsters to make a list of priorities. Moving to Europe was at the top of every list.
The exodus of young players from Argentina is a major problem for the league, and is bringing the standard of football down as a result.
Agents and clubs are desperate to cash in on their wunderkid, while players themselves are keen to earn in euros and play in the Champions League.
This is ‘national hypocrisy,’ as one magazine’s front page recently put it, pointing to the example of Messi.
Argentines demand everything from Lionel Messi, ran the gist of the story, when clubs refused to pay his medical treatment when he was young and really, really little, and the country failed to provide a job for his father.
Desperate, the Messis moved to Spain. They made a new life. Barcelona didn’t think twice about paying the £650 monthly medical bill for little Lio, and he soon became Messi. Mr. Messi found a job, but soon wouldn’t need one.
Yet while Messi has developed into a ‘Playstation’ player, his own coach says he is extraordinary, fans agree he is the best player in the world, and sports journalists try to tease out the inner-Garcia Marquez in them to do justice to what they have seen, there are still some Argentines he has yet to convince.
He doesn’t sing the national anthem. He’s Catalan. He’s Spanish. He doesn’t give it all with the national team. In fact, he doesn’t give anything. He saves his legs and energy for his employers. He hates Argentina.
The World Cup is one chance, perhaps the chance, for him to prove the last of the critics wrong, although as the national team fitness coach Fernando Signorini recently pointed out to Argie Bargy, they mustn’t expect so much of him.
“In 1982 there was another brilliant 22 year old, someone called Diego, who was a failure at the World Cup in Spain.”
On Wednesday, one columnist had to point out to its Argentine readers that succeeding abroad doesn’t make them anti-Argentine. Another implored its readers to stop attacking him.
The expectation of what Messi could do at the World Cup will be unbearable come June, but his performances this season, and his personality, suggest that it won’t be the expectation that stops him.
In the meantime, goodluck Zidane and Enzo in finding another player like Messi…
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so who do you think the next Messi is?
There is bound to be some crack kid in argentina somewhere... enlighten us!
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