Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Worlds Best – Messi vs Rooney

An Englishman has never been crowned FIFA’s World Player Of The Year, Beckham managed second in 1999 and 2001, as did Lampard in 2005 (Peter Beagrie was cruelly overlooked in 1998). That may not be the case for much longer. After almost every Manchester United or England game this season Rooney has at some point been hailed as the best in the world. Pundits are falling over themselves to lavish him with praise and with good reason. 33 goals and counting he has struck fear into opposing players and managers alike. It should be a no brainier, except of course football is also currently blessed with one of the finest talents ever to play the game, Lionel Messi. Messi betters Rooney’s goal tally by one and is the inspiration behind the breathtaking football played at Barcelona. He is reigning World Player Of The Year and is expected to retain his crown. Can Rooney steal his thunder?With so much important football yet to be played it is probably too early to say, but I am going to attempt the difficult task of picking who I would have in my team for the seasons run-in.
In many departments it is hard to set them apart, both players finishing is of the highest standard, as their goals this season suggest. Both are exceptionally quick, Messi probably being faster over short bursts with Rooney possessing greater sustained pace. Both contribute vastly to the way their team plays. Rooney defends from the front, chasing every lost cause, always fighting for possession. He also has a great eye for a pass and is as much provider as goalscorer. While Messi cannot match Rooneys tenacity his understanding and awareness of his teammates is second to none. What Rooney accomplishes by winning the ball back Messi accomplishes by not loosing it in the first place.
In other areas I have less trouble setting them apart. Rooney is clearly the more powerful player. It is a key feature of his game and I’m sure the cause of many centre backs sleepless nights. Messi has however proved the most competent on the big game stage, with the exception of his below-par international performances he nearly always excels on the biggest stage. Despite his modest height Messi is not to be underestimated in the air, as we saw in last years Champions League final yet it is not a major feature of his game. On the other hand Rooney’s aerial prowess has become one of his key assets and without doubt the biggest improvement in his game. Rooney’s first touch is sublime and  he has the ability to manipulate a football with effortless precision. Although it has not been a major part of his game this season he has shown in the past that he can run past players with ease. Messi wins this one though. I cannot recall seeing another player with suck quick feet. Defenders rarely get a sniff of the ball, which is never more than a few inches from his toe.
Who would I pick? My heart says Rooney but my head says Messi. I admire the spirit and fight in Rooney’s game, I love his ability to fuel the passion in supporters but everybody loves a dribbler. It is for me the most entertaining part of football and Messi is a master. I expect if he were English I would not be having this debate in the first place. Rooney may yet become one of the best ever but Messi can become the best their ever was.

Button Rules With His Head

Button wins in Australia

Its hard to imagine many people enthusiastically setting their alarms for the Grand Prix on Sunday morning. Those who did will not have been disappointed, Australia provided everything that was missing in Abu Dhabi. Conditions created the tactical battles the new regulations seem to have eliminated from the sport, splitting the grid and making for some really exiting racing.
Buttons call to come in for slicks was superbly timed and proved driver judgment is often as important as speed. The question many where asking prior to the season was how long it would take Button to get the better of Hamilton, the answer was 2 races. Hamiltons performance on Sunday was however probably the best of the day and he is justifiably upset with his 6th place finish. He deserved a podium finish at the very least. Their pairing at McClaren is one of the most intriguing I have seen in F1, Hamiltons aggression and raw pace are a complete contrast to Buttons smooth calculated style. With the exception of the Hamilton/Alonso pairing in 2008 there has been a disappointing lack of competitiveness within teams in recent years. It’s the best indication of just how fast a driver is.
Renault will be delighted with Kubica’s surprise second place, he is unlucky not to have secured a more competitive drive this season. Given the tools I’m sure he could challenge for the title. Alonso will feel he could have won despite having to fight from the back of the grid, he was quick all weekend until he found himself stuck behind teammate Massa. It remains to be seen if he is willing to accept equal status within Ferrari. His history at Renault and McClaren suggest not, but surely Ferrari are his last chance with a competitive team. As for Vettel you have to feel sorry for him as he should probably have 2 wins under his belt yet it seems Red Bull are still plagued by reliability problems. The Red Bull however appears some margin quicker than its rivals, a win cannot be far away.
At the other end of the grid the new teams are still well off the pace but Lotus have shown promise and Kovalainen completed a second race running. Hispania also managed to get a car to the finish, albeit 5 laps off the pace. Karun Chandhok had never driven the circuit and never been in an F1 car until qualifying for the first race. Some achievement amid the chaos happening around him at times. Its hard to see the Spanish team anywhere but the back of the field this season, but at least they have a big enough fuel tank. This leads us of course to Virgin Racing who announced this week that their cars cannot carry enough fuel to reach the end of a race. I must admit I found the idea of an F1 team based in Rotherham quite funny, they are in serious danger of becoming a laughing stock.
I would still have Vettel as favorite, closely followed by Alonso. The McClarens are not quick enough yet to regularly win races. Schumacher is not up to full speed, nor it seems is his Mercerdes, and I would be surprised if Renault finish as high as second again this year. Lets hope Melbourne proves to be a better indication of whats to come than Abu Dhabi. It would be a shame to waste such a talented and exiting grid.