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Gary Lineker: Messi's a genius but he's not the biggest danger for Arsenal
Published : 28 Mar 2010 15:09:59Rss feed
There is one massive obstacle facing Arsenal against Barcelona thisweek and I am not talking about Lionel Messi. The really bad news forArsene Wenger is the fact that the 2010 Champions League final will beplayed at the Santiago Bernabeu, the home of Barca's fierce and bitterenemies, Real Madrid. It really is the ultimate motivation for Barcelona and the whole Catalan 'nation'. Knowing the club as I do, they will already be dreaming of May 22and receiving the famous trophy on Madrid soil it would be thegreatest moment in their 111-year history. Imagine Manchester United winning the Champions League at Anfield,multiply the enjoyment by 10 and you can begin to get some idea of howmuch it would mean to Barcelona, particularly as Real spent millions inthe summer in their failed bid to ensure they would be in the final. I learned all about what drives CF Barcelona during three highly enjoyable years there in the Eighties. Their slogan is 'Mes que un club',Catalan for 'More than a club'. And it really is. In the aftermath ofthe Spanish Civil War, the only place the locals could speak Catalanfreely was in the Nou Camp, when the football was on. Motivation: Nothing would please Barcelona more than being crowned kings of Europe at the home of their deadliest rivals I became an adopted Catalan when I scored a hat-trick against RealMadrid in 1987 and the following month got four for England againstSpain in the Bernabeu. The Barca fans couldn't have been happier Iwoke up to headlines in Barcelona along the lines of: 'Catalan playerscores four goals against Spain'. Even without the Bernabeu incentive, it would be very tough for Arsenal against the European champions. Ina way, Wenger's side are Barcelona wannabes, who are not quite as goodas the real thing in any department. They are a fantastic side andtheir style of football has to be applauded. But whatever Arsenal cando, Barcelona do better. More from Gary Lineker... GARY LINEKER: Sport Relief proves footballers DO have a heart...20/03/10 Gary Lineker: Jose Mourinho will be back at Liverpool or Manchester City13/03/10 Gary Lineker: Don't bank on Rio Ferdinand being captain in South Africa - England's World Cup curse will hit Fabio Capello's planning06/03/10 Gary Lineker: John Terry may look strong but he is only human27/02/10 Gary Lineker: Martin O'Neill is the man to replace Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United20/02/10 Gary Lineker: It's simple - Terry and Bridge are England's best option now13/02/10 GARY LINEKER: The England captain must have the trust of his players06/02/10 Gary Lineker: Has Sir Alex Ferguson lost faith in Manchester United's £31m record buy Dimitar Berbatov?30/01/10 VIEW FULL ARCHIVE Arsenal pass and move like a dream, but not quite as fluidly as aBarca team masterminded by Xavi and Andres Iniesta in midfield. Arsenalhave wonderful technicians, including Cesc Fabregas. But is thereanyone in the world who can keep the ball under control at speed likeLionel Messi? Arsenal have added steel this season but Barcelona are experts at winning the ball back besides being outstanding going forward. ManchesterUnited were put under so much pressure in last season's ChampionsLeague final that they kept giving the ball away. Even in goal, whereVictor Valdes is not the strongest Barcelona player, he is stillslightly bet ter than Manuel Almunia. It all leaves Wenger with adifficult choice. Does he abandon his normal way of playing and shut up shop, as he did in the 2005 FA Cup final when he faced United without Thierry Henry. I don't think he will because, like Barcelona fans who demand 'Espectaculo' putting on a show Wenger will not want to disappoint on a big occasion. A lot will rest on Fabregas. He is not only a wonderful player but has that edge which I like in a top player. He started out at Barcelona and he will want to show them how good he has become. It is a shame that Wenger does not have Robin van Persie to call upon. Barca have so much firepower with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Messi, Pedro and Iniesta that Henry, the greatest player in Arsenal's history, is virtually in the supporting cast at the Nou Camp. Rising to the challenge: Nicklas Bendtner and Cesc Fabregas must bounce back from Saturday's disappointment at Birmingham Arsenal do not have an out-and-out striker of top international quality, something that might cost them over two games. All eyes will be on Messi, of course. Patrick Kluivert is among those who rate the little magician above Diego Maradona. I wouldn't go that far yet. But he is only 23 and he could surpass even the great Diego if he keeps this form up and does it for Argentina at a World Cup. Attacking players like Messi get better protection from referees than Maradona did and the result is he is virtually unstoppable. Neither Arsenal nor any other team can really man-mark Messi. If they did, the marker would probably get a yellow card in the first few minutes and a red a few minutes after that. Messi takes my breath away, I certainly can't remember a player since Maradona who keeps the ball so close to him at full speed. The match will bring back plenty of memories for me. Back in the day: Lineker When I played for Barcelona in the days before footballers were treated like big-time celebrities in this country the level of interest was an eye-opener. There were three newspapers in the city which were nominally sports papers but in reality covered only CF Barcelona with the first 24 pages dedicated exclusively to gossip and information about the team. When I tell you, the headline of one story read 'Venables has diarrhoea' you can understand the level of interest was beyond anything I'd previously known! With Pep Guardiola at the helm, Barcelona have translated that huge interest in the club into success on the pitch. It gives them the edge over United and Real Madrid, the two other clubs who vie for the title 'biggest club in the world'. Ultimately, I can't see much beyond a repeat of last season's Champions League final, Barcelona versus Manchester United. Winning in Rome was sweet for Barca, but winning in the Bernabeu will be the ultimate unfortunately for Wenger. Real coup: Mourinho Getting Jose Mourinho would be a real coup for Liverpool and I am sure he would love another crack at the Premier League. But his arrival depends on two things; firstly, the club have to decide Rafa Benitez has taken them as far as he can, and, secondly, funds will have to be found because Mourinho will not embark on a title challenge with the current Liverpool squad. Liverpool have three world-class players; Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard and Pepe Reina. The best of the rest are merely decent and the ones underneath that, nowhere near good enough. This season has been a real shame for Liverpool. They remain a huge name in world football but they take on Sunderland teetering on the brink of missing out on the Champions League, which could have serious consequences. Even with Torres and Gerrard, they aren't good enough. Can you imagine what things would be like without them? Now the FA need a real man like Sir Trevor at the helmAnother season, another Football Association chief executive bites the dust. It might not excite nor interest the average player or fan, but it is very important for the future of our game to have stability at the top. Personally, I will only feel comfortable when we have a proper football person who cares about the game sitting in a position of influence at the FA. Franz Beckenbauer and Michel Platini have shown that top players can become important administrators, so why in this country don't we put our trust in someone like Sir Trevor Brooking? Football in his blood: TrevorBrooking has the game at heart The one thing in common with nearly all of the FA chief executives who have been and gone and the FA chairmen for that matter is that they are not football people. They have come in from business, or television or politics. Do they take football jobs because they live for the game or because they feel it would good for their profile? Do they live and breathe the game? I have no idea if Brooking is a runner for the top job or would even want it. I haven't spoken to him about it. But I do know that I trust Trevor and know he would make decisions for the good of the game. Football would be safe in his hands. Being the FA chief executive is a really difficult job. The Premier League have a lot of power now, you have to work with them and other influential organisations in the game. It needs someone of intelligence and diplomacy but, above all, someone who loves the game and is embedded in it. It is no good bringing in another outsider.
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