As long as you win like Barcelona. This seems to be what the commentators and pundits believe anyway. The football played by the Catalan giants is often out of this world and it is right that praise is heaped upon Messi, Xavi and co. But it seems that because their football is so good, any play-acting, diving and outright cheating by the Barcelona players is ignored by anyone watching them.
Few would argue that Lionel Messi is currently the finest player on the planet and because of his skill and size, it is inevitable that he will be kicked and hacked down every game. It must be frustrating for him, but we’d all take a few kicks for €200,000 a week. Players are frequently being lambasted by commentators for waving the imaginary card when they’re brought down, but Messi seems to escape criticism when he tries to get other players carded. Gerry Armstrong and Rob Palmer even managed to turn it around when Messi was seen waving the imaginary card after being fouled by Marcelo during Barcelona’s recent 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Instead of reeling off the “Ah, we don’t like to see that” line, Marcelo was attacked for celebrating when Peter Crouch was dismissed against Madrid in the Champions League. No one stood up for Rivaldo when he went down holding his face against Turkey in the World Cup in 2002 after the ball hit his leg.
It’s not just Messi either, I don’t remember much being made of Sergio Busquets disgraceful behaviour against Jose’s Inter in last season’s Champions League semi final. Going down holding his face after Thiago Motta looked at him, Busquets had a sneaky look through his fingers to make sure the referee was watching and ready to send Thiago Motta off. And everyone remembers the furore Xabi Alonso and Sergio Ramos caused when they allegedly got themselves sent off against Ajax so they’d be free of their yellow cards in the knock out stages of the Champions League. You might not be aware that Andres Iniesta did exactly the same thing during Barcelona’s quarter final first leg 5-1 demolition of Shakhtar Donetsk, allowing him to play in the next round against Real Madrid. Iniesta escaped punishment.
Mourinho knows he probably can’t beat Barcelona by playing open, attacking football. Arsenal will be only too aware that this approach leaves you in danger of being ripped apart by the likes of Messi, Villa and Xavi. But Real Madrid will be criticised for killing the game if they set up to frustrate Barcelona and catch them on the break when their opponents begin to tire. The likes of Stoke and Blackburn play this way against Arsenal and are lavished with praise for playing to their strengths, while the Gunners are told they need to “man up” and find a plan B instead of playing proper football.
[quote]Cheating the referee is not a sin if it helps your team to win[/quote]
So said former Juventus hard man Paolo Montero
There will be some incredible play-acting when the Spanish giants meet tonight in the Champions League, as there was in the Copa del Rey final. Players from both teams will roll around like they’ve been shot and the imaginary cards will be waved around as usual, but don’t expect the commentators to pull Messi up on this. I love the football Messi and Barcelona play but too many people think they can do no wrong. Their party football excuses them from dishonesty in the same way that mistakes and poor performances from likes of Scott Parker and Charlie Adam are ignored as they so often end up carrying their teams. Sure, give credit where credit is due, but let’s have some consistency please. If Barcelona are a bloody disgrace, don’t be afraid to say so.