God of Football Lionel Messi will set his foot in Kolkata on Wednesday for first Fifa-sanctioned soccer friendly in India on September 2 featuring Argentina and Venezuela. After Pele, and more recently, Diego Maradona and Oliver Kahn, the Mecca of Indian Football Kolkata will host the Argentina and Venezuela national football teams. Real Madrid stars Gonzalo Higuain and Angel di Maria have already arrived. Barcelona FC teammate Javier Mascherano will arrive with Messi on Wednesday.
The city has dressed up to greet the stars. Hoardings of Messi can be seen everywhere, while jerseys, with Messi on it, are being sold at a premium. But witnessing the huge fan base, a special security cover has been made for to avoid any untoward incident with all efforts to prevent details on the arrival of Messi being made public.
Another top attractions for the Salt Lake stadium game alongside Argentine superstar Lionel Messi would be Winger Angel di Maria, who holds the distinction of having struck the winner off a fine pass from Messi in the 2008 Beijing Olympics final opposite Nigeria. Veteran Argentine central defender Martin Demichelis and 23-year-old centre back Nicolas Otamendi, have also landed in the city.
The new Argentine coach Alejandro Sabella Sabella arrived on Monday morning itself with an 18-member team, that included goalkeeper Esteban Andrada, and other coaching and support staff.
The friendly will be beamed live in 152 countries with the crowd from all over the nation thronging the Salt Lake Stadium. Bollywood celebrities John Abraham and Ranbir Kapoor will also sit among the audience. The stadium has undergone complete renovation to meet the international standards and is all set to host the historic tie.
Messi, whose playing style has drawn comparison to Diego Maradona, is considered to be his successor. In the meantime in an article ‘Lionel Messi’s best is yet to come’ in TOI the author pondered over whether Messi isn’t the greatest footballer ever?
The article quoted former India International Footballer Subhash Bhowmick known for his keen assessment of players, “In 1982, Maradona wasn’t quite the player he would become. He was 26 in 1986, and statistics show that as about the age footballers peak. (Zinedine) Zidane excelled at 27, Ronaldo at 26-plus. Even Pele, who won three World Cups and played his first at the age of 17, would say that his best came in 1970, when he was 27-plus. Messi is 24 and I would wait for the 2014 World Cup before passing judgement”.
Conclusion: We haven’t yet seen Lionel Messi’s best.