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kottke.org posts about Wayne Rooney

The beautiful thinking game

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 02, 2015

Judging by interviews, neither Wayne Rooney or Lionel Messi seems like the smartest tool in the shed, but they both possess a keen mind for football as Simon Kuper explains. Messi, who appears to listlessly sandbag his way through the early part of matches, is actually using the time to size up his opponent:

It was a puzzling sight. The little man was wandering around, apparently ignoring the ball. The official explained: “In the first few minutes he just walks across the field. He is looking at each opponent, where the guy positions himself, and how their defense fits together. Only after doing that does he start to play.”

And Rooney uses visualization (or as Shaq would call it, dreamful attraction), just like Allen Iverson:

“Part of my preparation,” he told the writer David Winner for ESPN The Magazine in 2012, “is I go and ask the kit man what colour we’re wearing, if it’s red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks. Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualize myself scoring goals or doing well. You’re trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself, to have a ‘memory’ before the game. I don’t know if you’d call it visualizing or dreaming but I’ve always done it, my whole life.”

A footballer’s exceptional visual memory was on display recently when FC Barcelona’s Xavi Hernandez was quizzed about 5 particular goals he’s scored out of 57 total across almost 500 matches for his club:

He gets them all correct, even what the scores were when they happened, the final scores, who else scored in each match, and even the team’s position in La Liga.

A quick P.S. for Messi. On Feb 16, 2015, Zito Madu wrote an article titled Is Lionel Messi even good anymore?

Plainly put, Messi is a shadow of his former self. He’s much more cynical, more selfish and power-hungry. How else can the departure of Martino and friction with Enrique be explained? It’s a power play by a man who feels his powers waning. Consider: after Barcelona’s 5-0 victory against Levante, Messi had only managed 37 goals and 18 assists in all competitions. A far cry from the player who once scored 82 goals in one season.

At 27 years old, we might be witnessing the twilight of Messi’s career. It’s a shame for a player who seemed to be on a tear just a few years ago.

It was a weirdly cynical take that contained a kernel of truth. A little over a month later on Mar 23, Jeff Himmelman wrote a piece called Lionel Messi Is Back On His Game.

But in the new year, Messi has finally started to look like himself again; he has been on fire, racking up hat tricks and leading the league in scoring. His legs and his extraordinary bursts of energy — the engine of his game — are back, and a move to the right flank from the congested middle has freed him to do what he does best: making slashing runs at defenders with speed, creating space and chances.

On the evidence of the last week, it has become possible to wonder whether Messi might actually be better than ever. The best reason to think so was the first half of Barcelona’s game against Manchester City on Wednesday, in the round of 16 of the Champions League European club championships. From the start, Messi spun passes into tight spaces and flew up and down the field with a boyish abandon that was nowhere to be found last year.

In that Man City game, Messi nutmegged both Milner and Fernandinho:

In a recent study released by CIES Football Observatory, Messi was judged to be the best forward in the world over the first three months of 2015. Ronaldo? 29th place. Eep.

Update: Real Madrid keeper Iker Casillas demonstrates his remarkable memory, recalling scores from matches from up to 15 years ago he didn’t even play in. (via @adamcohen15)