Lionel Messi Fresh To Impress in Russia
Barcelona’s title win means their star player is now free to prepare for Argentina’s World Cup campaign.
This is the week when Peru hope their captain and star centre forward Paolo Guerrero will be cleared of all charges of doping. When he failed a drug test last year he was given a year’s ban by FIFA, later reduced to six months. That period is now over. And so even if Guerrero’s appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport is unsuccessful, he will be ready to resume his career at the weekend – unless a rival appeal prevails. WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, are pushing for the ban to be increased to two years. Guerrero, FIFA and WADA all get their chance to make their case on Thursday.
This, then, is a big week for Peru, as they build for their first World Cup since 1982. But they seem calm enough. Former great Nol Solano, now on the coaching staff, made a comparison between Peru and another Russia-bound South American side.
“We’re not like the Argentina team,” he said, “where it’s not known which players will go to the World Cup. In our case it is clear.”
With less than 50 days until the tournament, it seems an astonishing observation to make about a rival team. But it is hard to dispute. And it is one which goes some way towards puncturing one of the biggest myths in the contemporary game – that Lionel Messi does not turn on the magic when he plays for his country.
The point is perhaps re-enforced by the highly symbolic hug between Messi and Andres Iniesta after Barcelona clinched another Spanish league title. Amid all the great players to have surrounded Messi over the course of his club career, there has been a solid core, of which, with Iniesta now moving on, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique are the last survivors. It is, of course, far easier to perform at a high level when accompanied by this type of player, especially in a context where they play of train together practically every day.