Mascherano on the Barca Way

Still, by far the most intriguing aspects of the interview are those considering the Barca way. Masche’s not the first Barca man we’ve heard make these statements but the idea that he’s echoing others’ views is arguably even more ‘worrying’ (worrying like a lack of milk or sugar, not worrying in the sense of unexplainable lumps on your person or being confronted by Joe Jordan riding a sabre-toothed mammoth). Barcelona seem to have convinced themselves they are in fact Jesus and are calling out, in the most un-Nietzschean way imaginable, for some Judas to betray them so they can be nailed to a crossbar and martyred and redeem football for its sins. Despite their considerable haul of late, they appear to be fixated with NOT winning trophies, as if Inter Milan were some kind of dirty collection of tax collectors (though they probably are). Indeed, in retrospect perhaps their coach trip to Milan last year was engineered to emulate Joshua Ga-Nozri entering Jerusalem on a donkey.

“People remember Cruyff’s Holland team even though they didn’t win anything. that’s worth something.,” says Mascherano. Perhaps, but these dasy people remember Cruyff’s Holland team even though they didn’t win anything because every five minutes someone from Barcelona says people remember Cruyff’s Holland team even though they didn’t win anything. You’re top of the league and playing a notoriously spineless Arsenal team at home with an away goal. If you don’t go through, you don’t get martyr status. Besides there are plenty of crap martyrs, and pegamequemegusta didn’t think martyrdom was very fashionable these days anyway. It’s all very General Boulanger. In any case, if you are going to be martyred, you may as well show some balls, go out screaming insults at the whorish wife of the Tetrarch rather than meekly faffing about in a garden muttering about a bad smell.

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Mascherano spoke today in El País about his time at Liverpool, how Rafa improved his game and the love he still holds for the place. He speaks about the childlike lust that characterises the English game and gets all Corcadorcha about Xavi & Iniesta: Ní fheicimíd ár leithéid arís ann. Indeed, if pegamequemegusta were grand enough to make tabloid status, there’s also a potential Arsenal-niggling headline regarding Fabregas being a ‘Barca man’. He speaks fondly of Bielsa and Guardiola, comparing the two, without a word for Batista, who’s not mentioned once.

All interesting enough from a guy, a thoughtful, measured, rational enough guy we rarely hear from. Still, by far the most intriguing aspects of the interview are those considering the Barca way. Masche’s not the first Barca man we’ve heard make these statements but the idea that he’s echoing others’ views is arguably even more ‘worrying’ (worrying like a lack of milk or sugar, not worrying in the sense of unexplainable lumps on your person or being confronted by a sabre-toothed Joe Jordan riding a mammoth with a marketing degree). Barcelona seem to have convinced themselves they are in fact Jesus and are calling out, in the most un-Nietzschean way imaginable, for some Judas to betray them so they can be nailed to a crossbar, martyred and so redeem football for its sins. Despite their considerable haul of late, they appear to be fixated with NOT winning trophies, as if Inter Milan were some kind of dirty collection of tax collectors (though they probably are). Indeed, in retrospect perhaps their coach trip to Milan last year was engineered to emulate Joshua Ga-Nozri entering Jerusalem on a donkey.

“People remember Cruyff’s Holland team even though they didn’t win anything. That’s worth something,” says Mascherano. Perhaps, but these days people remember Cruyff’s Holland team even though they didn’t win anything because every five minutes someone from Barcelona says people remember Cruyff’s Holland team even though they didn’t win anything. You’re top of the league and playing a notoriously spineless Arsenal team at home with an away goal. If you don’t go through, you don’t get martyr status. Besides there are plenty of crap martyrs, and pegamequemegusta didn’t think martyrdom was very fashionable these days anyway. It’s all very General Boulanger. In any case, if you are going to be martyred, you may as well show some balls, go out screaming insults at the whorish wife of the Tetrarch rather than meekly faffing about in a garden muttering about a bad smell.

Likewise in this vein of passive subjugation to the beast, the main thing we’ve all been wondering about down in the caves these last few months has been why Mascherano, captain of Argentina and 27 in a few months, has acquiesced so. He appears to have moved to Barcelona knowing full well he wouldn’t be in the team and has accepted with relish his role on the bench as if it was some Henrik Larsson-style cameo to round out a stellar career. Why on earth Mascherano is so content to ‘learn from’ someone else?

And then you have Busquets, who’s the perfect player for this club. Sergio, though he has so much talent he could play for any team, was born to play here. He’s got everything a Barca midfielder should have: he knows how to nick a ball, he’s got good technique and a perfectly ordered tactical game. I watch him and try to learn, to take things from him.

Pegamequemegusta is inclined to suggest he grow a pair quicksmart. Having said that, we do have some sympathy for his apparent desire to change his game, to actually become a Barca-style player, not just be a Van Bommell-style blow-in who hauls the buckets of plaster around for the fresco-painting geniuses; to make another step-up as he did at Liverpool. Maybe he’s deluded, maybe he’ll be proved right as it does look like he’ll be playing tomorrow. We’ll see. In the meantime, with the best will in the world, it’s hard not to be irked by his honesty in this interview as at times it borders on mawkishness.Anyway, as regards the interview itself (Spanish speakers can get the original here), it’s somewhat stuttery. There are incoherent jumps in the middle of an answer that give the impression they’re not really straight question-answer pairs. They read like the answers have been cobbled together from his remarks in general over the course of the day. Indeed, hardly any of the questions are actually posed as such. They’re more comments, statements.

Another odd thing, something we’ve noticed before with interviews by Argentine players in Spain, is that you get the impression he wouldn’t have used certain of the phrases that he is reported to have uttered. They’re too Spanish. It reads like it’s been translated into Spanish Spanish for the readers of EL País rather than his words having been directly transcribed. El País musn’t like these regional dialects polluting their pure castilian.

There are obviously abrupt jumps in theme, too, even though the piece is laid out as one long conversation. And at the end it becomes very messy indeed as they appear to have decided to just throw in a few jumbled remarks to close out the piece, some of which hardly make sense. The combination of these thematic non sequiturs, the suspicion that the answers are somewhat fake and the odd-sounding Spanish makes translating his tone and exact words a bit of a bitch. Still, pegamequemegusta would never ask you dear handsome fools to take it easy on us.

  • You were born near Rosario but you started off with River.

 

  • Yeah that’s how it started. Even though i’m a Central fan, the idea of playing for one of the Rosario teams never really came up. When I was twelve I got into Renato Cesarini’s training school, from where many kids move on to clubs in Buenos Aires. I’ll probably finish my career in Argentina, and hopefully it’ll be with River.

 

  • Why did you go to Brazil?

 

  • River had to offload players and Corinthians made a huge offer. It was weird ’cause either Lucho, Maxi López and me all had to go together or the deal was off. For me the move worked out well in a professional sense. I played for a year and we won the league, but then things got messy. The company in charge of the club wanted out and wanted to get its money back, too, so they sold me to West Ham. It was an awful move as I didn’t have any time to adapt or find out anything whatsoever. It was all a bit weird.

 

  • What’s it like being a midfielder in England?

 

  • It’s the best thing that’s happened to me in my career. It’s football in its purest state. There’s no pretense about it, it’s pure innocence, you go out to win. It’s the kind of football you play as a kid. It suited me perfectly as I started out playing in the street. That’s one of the reasons I have such fond memories of England. It was very enjoyable.

 

 

  • Completely different to Brazilian football, obviously.

 

  • No! Brazilian football is really open: for the defenders and the midfielders it’s difficult as you’re always playing one-on-ones. You’re duelling constantly, and if you lose out you’ll probably lose the game. I always seemed to find myself up against really quick guys in wide-open spaces…

 

  • What did you learn at Liverpool?

 

  • Under Rafa Benítez my tactical game improved greatly. He gave me the chance to show I could play in England. Tactically he’s very astute. He knows the other team very well, knows their weaknesses. He’s a very hard worker. He likes the team to be very well organised.

 

  • He doesn’t restrict the players too much, then, put them in a strait-jacket?

 

  • No, he always gave us freedom to play, just at the back we had to be organised. My job at Liverpool was to bring balance. When I arrived, Sissoko, Gerrard and Alonso were all there and the first thing I thought was if I wasn’t getting a game at West Ham, how was I going to get one with Liverpool? But Rafa gave me confidence. Gerrard moved forward to play behind Torres and I played next to Xabi. He was the more creative player and I was the counterweight, giving cover, sweeping up. My time at Liverpool was like being born again. In many ways I felt more comfortable there than I had with River. I still feel it’s my home, even though things went sour at the end. Liverpool wanted to sell me and business is part of football. I know that well these days.

 

  • Your career trajectory may have been hard to foresee but it hasn’t been half bad.

 

  • I’ve kept moving forward. I didn’t imagine my career being this way either but i’m happy enough. Whatever I’ve achieved has been through hard work and sacrifice. For me, football is the most important thing, not all the stuff that comes with it.

 

  • You’ve played against Arsenal lots of times.

 

  • Yeah, loads! In the league; we knocked them out of the Champion’s League, too; we played them in the FA Cup… I’ve almost always drawn against them and they always made me cover a lot of ground. They would have lots of possession and we’d be set up to score on the counter. That team was more or less the same as the team they have now. Flamini or Denilson for Wilshere; Kolo Toure and Gallas were there, too. Now there are some more kids but it’s more or less the same. They play a similar style to Barca but they’re stronger physically. Then again, you rarely see them win by punting long balls forward. I’ve played against Cesc a thousand times. He has that distinctive way of playing, that touch, those little details so characteristic of the football played here that remind you he’s a Barca man.

 

  • As a kid you watched plenty of European football. Did you see anything that compares to this team?

 

  • No, i’ve never seen a team like this Barca one. I saw Van Gaal’s Ajax and other great teams like Lippi’s Juve, but nothing like this. There’s not just one way to play football, they’re all valid. I’m fortunate enough to be a footballer, I got a chance to get in there and do my best. You do what you can. Luckily i’m here and I see now there’s another way of thinking about the game, of feeling and playing it. I’m glad to have been able to get to know it. The easiest thing would have been to have stayed at Liverpool. I had a fixed place in the team and no-one was going to take it from me. It would have been very easy to stay but I wanted to be part of a team that was fighting to win things. Whether we win anything or not, I came as I wanted to find out if I could play in a team like this one, if I could be part of a team that will be remembered for its style of play, not for what it wins. And that’s more important than any trophy. People remember Cruyff’s Holland team even though they didn’t win anything. That’s worth something. There are some people who only value winning things, but how you do things is important, too. I don’t look down on other styles of play but obviously this way is unique.

 

  • What has Guardiola asked of you? What have you had to change?

 

  • He told me to do the same job I’ve always done in defence and that as regards going forward to be very much involved, always free to take the ball, to keep it simple, to keep the move going… With Barca, positional play is very important. I run less these days but i’m always up with the play. I’m trying to learn and get better every day as my goal is to look back and be able to take pride of what I did on the pitch. Guardiola is quite similar to Bielsa in terms of the passion they both show for football. Both of them are more concerned with the other team’s goal than their own, on how to inflict damage when you attack. Marcelo is more direct, though, whereas Barca can be more patient.

 

  • Looking at the stats, you’re not playing as little as one might think.

 

  • In Argentina some people have been saying that i’m playing very little but i’m happy, especially when you consider the midfielders that Barca have – it’s the midfield that won the World Cup, the best there’s ever been. So I have to show a little respect and be conscious of the fact that if i’m not in the team it’s because players like Busquets or Keita are there… Or Xavi and Iniesta, the best creative players in the world, unique, once-off players. Unfortunately for football we won’t see their likes again. And then you have Busquets, who’s the perfect player for this club. Sergio, though he could play for any team, was born to play here. He’s got everything a Barca midfielder should have: he can nick the ball, he’s got good technique and a really tight tactical game. I watch him and try to learn, to take things from him. We’re quite different, really. I’ve always been a team player. To win things you need a squad. Only eleven can take the field, five are on the bench and six watch from the stand. But for the first eleven to be at their best you need healthy competition every day. That’s why i’m here.

 

  • Did you lose money in all this?

 

  • We’ll leave that for another day.

 

  • Was it Messi who convinced you to join Barca?

 

  • Nooo, more like me asking him to recommend me to the people at Barca! Seriously, I think they asked Leo and Gabi [Milito] what kind of person I was, what I was like in the dressing room, etc. I’m grateful to them as it appears they spoke well of me, as I ended up here.

 

  • Why has it been so hard for Messi to be accepted in Argentina?

 

  • Probably because he never played there. All the players are identified with a certain club except for him. But that’s all in the past now. We’re lucky that the best player in the world is Argentine and people just want to enjoy that now.

 

  • As regards being the best player in the world, does Messi have to win a World Cup?

 

  • For the time being we have the challenge of the Copa América, which will be played in Argentina this year. Argentine football needs a trophy as we haven’t won anything for a long time. People are really looking forward to it. It’s time Argentina won something again.

 

  • What does it mean to you to be captain of Argentina?

 

  • First of all it’s a source of great pride, but it’s also a great responsibility. I was lucky enough to have Ayala here when I started playing. He showed me the ropes and eased my way into the set-up. I try, in my own manner, my own way, if not to imitate him but to leave something. The Selección is about leaving something for the next generation; they must know you tried to do your best.

Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dream-
ing so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it?
A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled
back, skin falling off. But he wasn’t afraid of that. It was a beau-
tiful day. How ’bout some coffee? Don’t mind if I do. Take a little
ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.

– James Tate

Militonian Ellipses – Diego Milito Comes of Age

It’s a question on maturity, of experience… My career has built up gradually. That’s why I can say now that i’m in more or less the best form of my life. I don’t know if it’s the best, cause last year at Genoa was extraordinary [24 goals in 31 games, che]. Of course that didn’t get so much attention because I didn’t achieve the same level of success as this year or because that club wasn’t as big as Inter…

Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise

To scorn delights and live laborious days – John Mil(i)ton

Nice interview in Olé today with Diego Milito, a guy it would be an exaggeration to say pegamequemegusta, while having a lot of time for him, knows inside out. Sure we know the story of his career and its beginnings with our beloved Racing, his consistently banging in a goal a game for 10 years now whether at Genoa, Zaragoza or Inter, but to be honest we’ve never heard him talk.

It turns out he’s a decent enough old chinwagger. He has some interesting things to say about his record in la Selección, that Barca-Inter game, Mourinho and whether he is compatible with his illustrious strike partners in the Argentina squad. Strangely enough, though, there are no questions about his brother Gaby, one of the many guys left out of Maradona’s squad despite being at a big club and being well-regarded.

The interview was conducted by Hernán Claus and Carlos Carpaneto of Olé. You can read the original here. The translation, as always, is ours. It’s good-natured yet probing. Nonetheless, pegamequemegusta has never in its short painful life seen as many ellipses as in this piece. Could they be a metaphor for Diego Milito’s stop-start, intermittent international career? Read on to find out…

  • The World Cup is nearly upon us but people are still talking about how Inter played in the Nou Camp…
  • The criticism was unfair in my opinion as a lot of it had very little to back it up. It was a two-legged tie against the best team in the world and yet people only talk about one of the games, where we already had a two-goal lead. Pandev got injured in the warm-up so we had to change our formation; and on top of that we were a man down after 20 minutes… Those who saw Inter play all season know that we always went out to win every game – they know it was unfair criticism.
  • When did you feel you were going to the World Cup?
  • Honestly, when the list came out. You never know what’ll happen, whether you’re in or out…
  • But having such a great season didn’t give you reason for feeling confident?
  • Yeah, I was plenty confident but it always depends on what the manager wants, what he thinks right at that particular moment… that’s why I couldn’t be certain until the final list came out.
  • Did you prove Diego right or was it the other way around?
  • Haha, a bit of both. I think I did my part playing well for my club and then he obviously did his by putting his trust in me. There were a lot of strikers to choose from.
  • How come your best run of form has come when you’re nearly 31?
  • It’s a question of maturity, of experience… My career has built up gradually. That’s why I can say now that i’m in more or less the best form of my life. I don’t know if it’s the best, cause last year at Genoa was extraordinary [24 goals in 31 games, che]. Of course that didn’t get so much attention because I didn’t achieve the same level of success as this year or because that club wasn’t as big as Inter…
  • But it looks like this was the best year, no? For the first time you won loads and it was your first season in one of Europe’s biggest clubs. You replaced Ibrahimovic, you went pound for pound with Eto’o…
  • Yeah that’s what winning things is all about, taking over from world-famous players, and things really couldn’t have gone any better. Then you’ve got the good work I put in myself, the confidence the manager gives me…
  • Did you learn much from Mourinho?
  • You always learn something from every manager… Mourinho helped me a lot, made me more confident above anything else… As regards my style it’s not much changed from last year. What Mourinho does is he always keeps you on your toes, I mean he never lets you slack off and he always wants to keep on winning.
Football's most beloved blubbering geniuses
  • Is Maradona like Mourinho at all?
  • They’re both winners and have strong personalities, like all managers at this level.
  • Can you and Higuaín play together? On Olé‘s website the readers voted for you and el Pipita to play up front alongside Messi…
  • I reckon so, yeah, we’d have no problem playing with each other. Or with Carlitos, el Kun or Martín for that matter…. I can play with any of the strikers in the squad. Grand, this season at Inter I was the target man more or less, but during my career i’ve also played in a deeper role. Learning to play with other players is part of the job.
  • With Higuaín, then, how would you complement each other?
  • We’re both basically similar enough in many ways but quite different at the same time. We both move right along the line of attack, from one side to the other. Maybe i’m more of an in-the-box striker and he can make the difference outside.
  • Maradona said it would be tough to leave out Carlitos… What about leaving out Milito?
  • That’s more of a question for the manager, really. Frankly, i’m here to do my job… Obviously we all want to play and i’m going to fight for my place.

  • Do you feel that only now, after this great year with Inter and your goals in the Champion’s League final, you’re being recognised as a great player in Argentina?
  • Well that’s normal, you know, especially after winning those titles, for having scored two goals in a match everyone saw… I accept how it is and it doesn’t bother me…
  • How do you imagine your birthday will be this year, the 12th of June, the very day Argentina play Nigeria?
  • The 12th of June? Well… I can see myself celebrating Argentina’s victory. That would be the best present, yeah, without a doubt.
  • Even better if you’re playing…
  • Obviously you dream about playing, but all 23 of us want that. And what eleven actually take the field is Diego’s decision. It’s not a cliché: the important thing is that we win.
  • Why do you think you haven’t had a good run of games in the team so far?
  • It’s a tough question to answer; I don’t know what to tell you… It might be a question of taste, that the different managers have just preferred other players. That’s the way it is; I don’t get too caught up in it. And I know it’s hard being the manager of Argentina as there are a lot of great forwards – in our case, the best in Europe…
  • Many people might think you’ve had a lot of chances when, in truth, since 2006 you’ve only started 5 out of the 13 games you played in, and none of those were one after another…
  • The stats tell you I haven’t played many games in a row but i’m also very self-critical and there have been chances for important goals in games, even when i’ve only had 10 or 15 minutes. Anyway, now i’m just thinking of the future…
  • Might one of those important goals have been in the match against Brazil in Rosario?
  • That miss still gets to me, but in the same way as every other chance i’ve ever missed, and not just ’cause it was against Brazil. Well, maybe, yeah, it would’ve been an important goal for me and for the team… But besides being pissed off about it I try to stay cool as even this year in Italy, for example, i’ve missed two million chances… Us strikers miss chances…
  • But you score them, too. Could Milito work a Palermo-like miracle?
  • Hahaha, Ojalá. Let’s hope so. Let’s hope I can work one, too.

Yeah, a lovely guy, Milito, i’m sure you’ll agree. I’m sure if the irascible Ignacio Fusco had done the interview he would’ve repeatedly badgered him about why he and Samuel were called up and not Cambiasso or Zanetti. Pegamequemegusta doesn’t know why that is either, though, as temperamentally he seems quite similar.

Anyway, he’d start for us but but would he make your starting eleven?

Messi, Francescoli & Sports Illustrated

This may seem like curmudgeonly criticism, but when a magazine like Sports Illustrated rolls along with its feted, prizewinning auteurs deigning to shed a bit of light on Argentina only to tell a story anyone who’s at all interested in the topic already knows by heart, present bits of other peoples’ interviews as its own work and even make smug, condescending and downright stupid comments about a country the writer clearly doesn’t know very well, pegamequemegusta don’t like it; we expect better.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, so does pegamequemegusta churn out these cold, wet and unpotable posts. My brothers, oh handsome brothers (and we stress this as narry a lovesick sailor after three years on the yardarm has espied more females than are wont to frequent this inhospitable coast), pegamequemegusta was forced out on its crutches to stalk the shoreline today for two reasons: firstly because of the usual financial imperative that sees us selling cigarettes to schoolchildren and, secondly, as the words of two contrasting Messi interviews in one day had set our salt-encrusted sinapses firing alternately bursts of delight and outrage as in the 50-gun salute once held by our dear, late schizophrenic skipper after what he claimed to be te vanquishing of his evil twin.

The first piece that set our ears as pointed as a horny cocker spaniel with a Nosferatu make-over comes from Sports Illustrated. The piece is imaginatively titled ‘Lionel Messi: the World At His Feet’. When we came across it, it had already been retweeted many times, nearly all of which referred to it as ‘outstanding’.

Although the sarcasm leaking from the previous lines is about as appealing as being dripped on by a paedophile, it is a good article, of course. Pegamequemegusta was even quite thrilled with such great lines as these:

The fact is, with a talent as otherworldly as Messi’s, charm would be a distraction. Miles Davis played a diabolic trumpet with his back to the audience, and that was more than enough; any hint of charisma would have blown the roof off the place. Maradona’s career, meanwhile, played out like a war between a glorious body and a corrupted mind; when, in 1994, his days as an international player ended in disgrace after he failed a World Cup drug test, the personality seemed to have consumed the player whole.

Great stuff; and it’s accompanied by interesting claims such as Messi “has indeed shifted Maradona’s gambeta, his capering dribble, into a higher gear.” Pegamequemegusta goes all Polonius: ‘capering’ is good.

Yet by page three we began to feel irked by the excessive name-dropping. When left to its own devices, the prose is good, so why laden it down with all these quotes? Well, they’re there to create a veritable chorus of respected football voices who can testify to Messi’s greatness, who can justify the interest (and, indeed, the length) of the piece, you say, oh handsome reader. Grand. But perhaps it’s just padding since Messi doesn’t have much to say. Perhaps we don’t need any more interviews with Messi. Pegamequemegusta is pretty bleedin tired of reading and watching these things, so god knows how the man himself feels.

Yet what does SI care? It prides itself on having an interview with Messi the day after his stonking performance against Real Madrid last November. The day after. Yet SI wants water for its souvenir-studded mill so bad that in its classic Gonzo, look-at-me intro, Price complains of Messi’s churlish reluctance to speak about the comparisons between himself and el Diez: “Messi spent the first 5½ giving clipped and preemptively bland replies. Now Maradona’s name pops up, tucked into the idea that it must be both tiresome and flattering to be compared with perhaps the greatest player in history. Messi’s face hardens: Here’s the ball he’s been waiting to boot out-of-bounds.”

SI try to get through to their man

This isn’t a minute by minute of Mr Price’s work but suffice it to say that it covers all the ground familiar to anyone who’s paid any attention to Messi over the past five years or indeed pegamequemegusta over the past three months: Newell’s, Rexach, Barcelona, Jorge Messi, criticism in his native land, Maradona. Though in fact, apart from some delightful prose describing Maradona’s character (“Diamond earrings flashing, waistline ballooning, marriage falling apart, Maradona soon became a cartoon figure”), there is almost no discussion of Maradona as manager, leader, or the country’s hopes in the World Cup, nothing for better or worse. Being turned down by Maradona, who gives about ten interviews a day, coupled with Messi’s unwillingness to speak on the matter seems to have stumped the eminent reporter.

He regales us with an unsubstantiated anecdote about Verón (“one of the team’s veteran midfielders”) changing the tactics at half time against Brazil and claims that Argentina attacked ‘more effectively’ in the second half’. Yet they didn’t. Maradona is not a good manager and his selection for that match and others was wrong but the pathetic goals they let in the first half had less to do with tactics or Messi’s position on the pitch than they did an inexperienced, bricking-it defence ahead of a startled goalkeeper and massive Brazilian centre halves. There’s enough shit to throw around already to keep a squadron of hyperactive monkeys happy for a month, so surely one expects a celebrated journalist to get their story straight.

Neither was pegamequemegusta too fond of the suggestion that ‘Their marriage has felt strained since September 2008, a month before Maradona took over, when he clucked, ‘Sometimes Messi plays for himself; he feels so superior that he forgets his teammates.” Again, ‘clucked’ is good, but the claim is outlandish and simplistic: what about the performances of beloved, world-class players such as Tevez, Cambiasso, Zanetti and even Riquelme in the last year of Coco Basile’s reign?

But this is going on for far too long. There’s some orchestra-heavy Woody Harrelson/Wesley snipes flim that’s not White Men Can’t Jump on TV (with lines like “You’re busted and you’ll be licking the inside of your asshole for a month to get the taste out of your mouth” – jaysus), the missus is snoring and pegamequemegusta is tired. Suffice it to say that Mr Price’s well-written article is littered with faults.

'El Príncipe' Enzo Francescoli

Yet it was just earlier tonight that we saw an interview with Messi that did ask some questions that he was willing to answer. It was on Canal 7 with Enzo Francescoli in a program with an equally tacky title, ‘Juego Sagrado’. Unlike the Sport’s Illustrated piece, which had a gestation period of a few months, this chinwag took place about ten days ago, as evidenced by Messi’s wearing a Barça training top. It’s very relaxed and Enzo is impeccably turned out in a dark sports jacket and dark navy shirt. Rather than looking to bathe a lack of details in a sea of prose, it is more focused on chatting about what it’s like to be Messi and play like Messi. Obviously, the scourge of a thousand interviewers so far has been the standard response ‘I don’t know, I just do it’, yet Enzo, if his lack of journo credentials meant he couldn’t do the interview alone and had to be accompanied, at bottom is a real football man and he managed to extract a few gems from Rainman himself.

Some of pegamequemegusta’s personal highlights were when they got Messi talking (how about this for a question, SI?) about his favourite players. Aimar, was the immediate response. He even sat up in his chair. Soon he mentioned Zidane and original Ronaldo but watching Aimar back in his Valencia days was one of his great joys. Very interesting, we said as we slapped our good knee, especially since arguably he should have been in the squad.

The next nugget wasn’t long in dropping either. Enzo wanted to know what Messi thinks about when he’s in the box. “For example,” says Francescoli, “whenever the ball would be in and around the box i’d always look to position myself on the left-hand side of the area and look for knock-downs, short passes, one-twos and the like.” Messi stirs, looks up and smiles, certainly picturing the scene to himself as this slick legend talks about playing football. “You, however, score all sorts of different goals but do you think about it? Or do they just happen? Take the third goal against Arsenal, for example, such a lovely goal, to have the calm to lob the keeper like that, was that improvised?”

“Nah,” says Messi, “that one wasn’t improvised actually. I had decided that if I was in a one-on-one I was going to do that as Xavi had got into that position in the previous match and he’d missed it. You know,” and he grins whilst nervously scratching his arm, “with Almunia you had a good idea of what he was going to do.” And they all titter knowingly. Ah, Almunia.

Messi dinks the ball over Almunia for his hat-trick

It wasn’t a laugh a minute by any stretch of the jaw. They spoke about competition in training, practising free kicks, trying to get better every day, etc. The interview inevitably covered much of the same ground, (he’s twenty-bloody-two) yet it seemed more comfortable than the impression given by Sports Illustrated of their encounter. When the other journalist – sorry, pegamequemegusta doesn’t know who he was and I couldn’t find any clips so far – asked about Maradona, you could see immediately his face tensing up, ready to give the same spiel Again. “I always said there’d only ever be one Maradona, and to be honest the comparisons make me uncomfortable,” he said. Yet Enzo arrived to take the edge off with one of his characteristically long interjections, which we don’t have to hand, and they end up talking about how the important thing is what you’re like as a person.

What Messi did say on the team’s chances in South Africa was that they were going to have to work hard in the build-up once they all get together. Could they play like Spain? “Ojalá,” he said, “that’s what we’re missing, we have to get used to keeping the ball and creating chances; we’re going to try and get that nailed down.” The Germany match helped greatly in stabilising things, he assured Enzo. “Whatever about the result, you could see we grew as a team and we have to keep on that track.”

Platitudes. You see, it’s not just an awkward, defensive reflex on the Diego question: he won’t truck any nonsense about naming his ‘Ideal XI’ either. Nor does he ‘dream’ about lifting the trophy: of course he thinks a lot about winning it but, you see, Messi don’t dig oneirism much. He may be a likened to a poem-in-prose but he’s no soothsayer or poet. He’s no Valdano, Maradona or Victor Hugo Morales. He hasn’t got the words to express himself; he doesn’t even seem to think much and he doesn’t watch much football. I imagine the staff employed to keep him happy never tire of sending gracious letters of thanks to Sony.

As everyone who’s met him seems to concur, he’s a lovely boy but grade-A interview material he ain’t. Of course, he brings it on himself with the outrageous number of endorsements he does. Sports Illustrated say he earns in the region of $46m a year. Utterly insane. If you’re Beckham and that’s your world, grand, but if you’d be just as happy sitting in a wicker chair with a piece of straw in your mouth, please, for the love of God don’t sign any more contracts once the current ones end. Don’t do any more underpants ads.

Beckham has nothing to be worried about...

This isn’t another of those cheapest of cheap shots whereby Jorge Messi is accused of treating his son like a particularly fertile hen, that he has been too quick to cash in on his son, right from the initial decision to up sticks and go on the grand Barcelona adventure. While it’s clearly rubbish, it is interesting to wonder how Messi how might have been different had he stayed in Argentina, had he developed longer in the vicerrealista culture of Argieball. For all his undoubted picardía on the pitch, he doesn’t have the same swagger of an Agüero, say.

For pegamequemegusta, these are more interesting topics than his relationship with Maradona. Enzo Francescoli got much closer to the heart of the matter than Sports Illustrated, who besides mentioning that he spoke in Spanish (!) didn’t feel it was necessary to point out how Messi speaks, the fact that he still has a real bogger accent and still uses Argentine slang despite living in Barcelona for most of the last decade. Does Mr Price speak castellano? In any case, he does go out of his way to quote an idiot like Sergio Almirón: “He has a Spanish mind,” Almirón says at last. “He thinks he’s Spanish!”

Even if they’re someone else’s words, it’s another cheap shot: You wouldn’t ask Don Givens why McGeady doesn’t play well (and Almirón is far less important than even Don Givens). Also, the line about the picketers smacks of condescension: protesting about the hail may have something to do with the fact that the response to their no doubt shoddy houses being fucked on was nonexistent. And Argentines don’t eat beef for breakfast since the rate of inflation in the country means most people – including pegamequemegusta – can hardly even afford it.

This may seem like curmudgeonly criticism, but when a magazine like Sports Illustrated rolls along with its fêted, prizewinning auteurs deigning to shed a bit of light on Argentina only to tell a story anyone who’s at all interested in the topic already knows by heart, present bits of other people’s interviews as its own work and even make smug, condescending and downright stupid comments about a country the writer clearly doesn’t know very well, pegamequemegusta don’t like it; we expect better. ‘Grab some wire, duct tape’ – excuse me, pero quién te creés, yanqui conchudo ? Do you know how hard people bloody well work in this country and the fact they get almost nothing for it, and have no security to speak of? Is this due to their ‘lunacy’ alone? Would your own government care to offer an opinion on its involvement in multiple disasters in Argentine history, its role in constructing the stage on which all this madness unfolds, from the overthrow of Perón down to the their complicity with the dictatorship and the crash of 2001?

Sports Illustrated seems offended that Maradona’s qualifications aren’t as impressive as their own, yet they singularly fail to identify with the subject of their interview or to shed any new light on the man or his situation. Francescoli hasn’t got much experience either yet he got a lot more out of Messi in more or less the same amount of time. ¡Viva Enzo! Sigan mamando, SI.

*Tonight Enzo is interviewing Zidane!