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Lionel Messi may be heading towards his Vegas stage but the fire still burns | Lionel Messi

Of all the many Elvis Presley incarnations – Vegas Elvis, Leather-based Elvis, Tremendous-Good-looking Younger Elvis – my favorite might be Karate Elvis.

Elvis loved karate. He typically appeared in public wearing karate gear, and spent years planning his personal starring position in a karate-based blockbuster film. The issue was, he saved on doing karate as he grew older and vaguer, inspired by dependant physique guards whose duties included humouring Elvis in the perception he remained a lethal combating machine.

Whilst late-stage Elvis was being wheeled from sleep chamber to bathroom advanced – sometimes gorging on his favorite snack, a complete loaf hollowed out and full of bacon, peanut butter and jam – he retained his karate nickname, “the Tiger Man”.

As the Tiger Man he made a behavior of showing at odd instances of day wearing karate go well with and sun shades, insisting his company level a gun at him so he might disarm them with his lightning-fast drugged-up arms. Naturally Elvis was in a position to obtain this each time, to awed applause from his dependents.

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It was onerous not to consider this, just a bit bit, watching the opening 47 minutes of Barcelona in opposition to Elche on Wednesday evening, as Lionel Messi strolled, skulked and customarily ambled round the Camp Nou pitch.

That is, after all, a sort of heresy. Messi may be an ageing supernova, but he isn’t on the Karate Elvis spectrum. Even by way of a slough of despond at Barcelona he has extra photographs and extra passes a recreation than any attacking participant in Europe. He’s still a aim machine, with 13 in 13 video games since the winter break. That is one significantly well-preserved 33-year-old.

Still, although, it’s also Messi, an athlete who evokes the most exacting, protecting emotions. Any sense of shrinking attain, the lack of these delicate illuminations, is a sort of agony. You’ll be able to’t assist trying, scanning for cracks in the icon.

Plus there’s the gloom, the deathliness of this Barcelona iteration, the heavy air round its dying star. That is a technique of claiming Messi spends quite a lot of time strolling as of late. And never even strolling shortly. For a lot of the opening 47 minutes in opposition to Elche, Messi wandered round like a person strolling off to purchase a sandwich.

Darkish ideas can intrude at instances akin to these. There may be the continued suggestion the Messi Industrial Advanced may be about to decamp to the Premier League, a signing that might, even at this late stage, overshadow the whole lot in his eyeline.

Lionel Messi scores Barcelona’s first goal against Elche at the Camp Nou.
Lionel Messi scores Barcelona’s first aim in opposition to Elche at the Camp Nou. {Photograph}: High quality Sport Photos/Getty Photos

Manchester Metropolis have already got a fantastically high-functioning midfield and assault. But they’re, it has been reported once more, prepared at hand a five-year £450m dedication to the most overwhelming presence in world soccer, unavoidably colouring the spectacle, the membership’s whole trendy identification.

The query retains nagging away. How a lot of this late-stage Messi supremacy is solely star momentum, a supertanker on its last lap into port? The 4-1 defeat at residence to Paris Saint-Germain final week was a shiver of one thing. Surrounded by youthful, higher organised opponents Messi wasn’t solely outrun. He regarded susceptible. He regarded touchingly uncovered. How shut are we to this being actual?

Does it even matter? It has been prompt the most compelling causes for signing Messi are extraneous issues: the probability to develop into the males who signed The Man, for the membership to reap the generational advertising rewards, the step-change in world standing. These had been a few of the darkish ideas on Wednesday evening.

At which level, the Occasion occurred. In isolation it was no totally different from so many different Messi occasions, but this time round it got here like a breaking wave. With 46 minutes on the clock and the rating 0-0 Messi was still strolling round. At 46:37 he gave the ball away and watched as Ousmane Dembélé ran to fetch it. At 46.50 he was actually standing still, trying vaguely as another individuals took half in a soccer match.

Lastly Pedri acquired the ball in midfield and Messi noticed an angle. As the clock ticked to 47 minutes he ran to take the move and turned to face the Elche aim. Freezeframe the second, and it appears clear Messi is aware of what’s about to occur. By some means he has discovered a bizarre little channel of house between the two defensive midfielders, Guti and Omenuke Mfulu. By 47.02 instantly everyone seems to be operating backwards, chasing this ferrety determine in a rush of panic, like first responders hurtling towards a burning scout hut.

Josema the left-sided centre-back cracks first, sliding out in a full-length lunge. But Messi is gone, gliding previous on parallel rails. The ball is launched to Martin Braithwaite, who has that shared image airdropped into his head and nudges the ball again. From there, Messi eases previous Gonzalo, evades the run of Johan Mojica, and is now proper in entrance of aim, stretching out to slide the ball previous Édgar Badía as the clock hits 47:06.
From a standing begin Messi has overwhelmed 5 gamers, conjured a second of footballing telepathy, left two defenders on their backs and scored the game-breaking aim. There he goes, wheeling off with a bashful little wave. Yeah, in order that’s me. Wait, you didn’t … doubt me? Karate who?

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Messi scored once more on 68 minutes with a end so brilliantly informal it made you need to chuckle out loud, finally putting the ball in the internet like somebody posting a letter. He helped make the third. You get the thought. He may be drained, irritated, power ranges dampened. But that is still The King.

All of which is one other method of claiming the factor that’s all the time stated. There’s a temptation to fret away at what Messi can still imply. But when there’s an opportunity to get him you must take it, as a result of we may not see his like once more.

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