Guillem Balagué: What separates Messi from the rest

By Rob Virtue on December 24, 2013 10:37 AM |

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The magic and the mystery of Lionel Messi was the topic being discussed at Canary Wharf last week.

Spanish journalist and TV pundit Guillem Balagué has written a hefty tome analysing the Barcelona and Argentina star, arguably the world's best ever player.

There are not many people better placed to study Messi than Balagué, who was signing copies of the book at Waterstones in Jubilee Place last Wednesday.

The Times columnist and Sky Sports reporter vividly remembers the star from his early days.

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"He was a juvenile and I had a good friend at Barcelona academy who was always talking abut him but I had heard all that before," said Balagué. "Until you see it you don't know.

"At that time they used to say Victor Vázquez - now at FC Brugge - was the good one of that team, but there were also the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Messi, it was a very famous generation.

"So I went to see them and Messi was different. You couldn't tell he would be best in the world but while everyone had some structure in their mind of how they should play, Messi just did his thing - the move he's done since he was eight - gets the ball, dribbles past two or three and scores.

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"That instantly makes you think there's something there but they still have to get through the ranks."

So what is the difference between the youth prodigies who make it and those that fail? The quest to find out was one of the main reasons Balagué wrote the book, for which he worked very closely with Messi's family.

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"I identified players that along the way could have been as good - won the World Cup under-20s with him or were in the youth team at Barca - but just failed," said Balagué.

"It's a whole bunch of things you need to have. It's not just genetic - it does help he's short and skilful but the rest is in the head.

"The consistency, the feeling there's still room to improve, the hunger.
There's a list of 10 or 11 things I look at in the book."

But Balagué admits the Argentinian is sure to miss out in January's Ballon D'Or to Cristiano Ronaldo, ending a run of three year's success in the vote for the world's best player.

"Messi's been struggling physically since May and then the rules changed to extend the deadline and after that Ronaldo scored his hat-trick against Sweden."

Messi is available at Waterstones, priced £20. Go to waterstones.com.

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