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Gastelum: Messi should move to the EPL to be the best (Feb. 23)

Andrew Gastelum | Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In every sport there are plenty — those who go beyond athlete and venture into the status of worldwide celebrity.

Their aura escapes through the gates of the arenas and floods into the city that surrounds it.

We see the Tom Bradys, the LeBrons, the Derek Jeters and know they represent much more than just the sport they play with their celebrity superstardom.

One defies the odds in sports today.

He stands at 5’6″ and weighs in at 150 pounds, perfect for a gymnast or maybe even a jockey.

But Lionel Messi plays the world’s game for the world’s people, defying the odds every step of the way.

Rather than being an athletic specimen since birth, Messi struggled with a growth hormone disorder which almost shelved his extraordinary career before it even started.

Rather than signing a multi-million dollar signing bonus, Messi signed his contract with FC Barcelona on an extra napkin in a grungy bar.

Rather than appearing like the others on the covers of GQ and Sports Illustrated, Messi conquers the cover of Time Magazine because he is that kind of a story.

He transcends the celebrity athlete simply by being the underdog, the little guy who made it big. He is more than the usual unblemished, celebrity face of the sport. He is the sport.

The striker averages an astonishing 0.71 goals per game in his career, in a game where one goal by both teams means a lot.

The same guy who wasn’t supposed to even play professional soccer has made 18 additions to the Barcelona trophy case, including five La Liga titles and three Champions League championships.

Last season, Messi scored more goals than any La Liga player with 53 and looks to break the record again this year, as he already scored 42 with over 20 games remaining.

And the world’s best player has done all this by 24, an age at which most players are barely hitting their prime.

But Messi is not the greatest of all time yet. He must do two things to become the best: one radical, one plausible.

First, the striker must improve on the international stage and win a World Cup. In the 2010 World Cup, Messi didn’t score a goal.

And now for the shocker.

For Messi to truly surpass Pelé, he needs to make the transfer to the English Premier League (EPL). By season’s end, he will add a few more trophies to his legacy and be Barca’s all-time leading scorer. What more can he do in La Liga? There are only a few games per year that matter in that league and they all consist of Barcelona vs. Real Madrid; the rest of La Liga would have trouble even making it in the EPL.

Right now, Messi is what makes Barcelona the powerhouse it is. If Messi were truly the best, he would continue scoring at this record pace in any league, including the more physical Premier League where the world’s best competition resides.

With Manchester City, United, Tottenham, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool all registering as five-star squads, Messi would play the best defenses in the world (outside of Real Madrid, Barcelona and AC Milan) every week instead of Bilbao and Levante.

And with the fanaticism that puts all American sports to shame, England is the best place for the world’s best. The Barcelona star has at least four years left in his prime, and with rumors of Ronaldo returning to the UK, Messi needs to make the move before he is all that is left in La Liga.

It seems sacrilegious to even think about pulling him from the Barca stripes, but imagine the competition.

Don’t worry, all the Barcelona fans will follow, because all the Barca jerseys you see are because of him.

Go to a five-star EPL team and become the best Leo, just stay away from City, Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea.

 

Contact Andrew Gastelum at agastel1@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are the views of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.