Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

Lionel Messi

The thing we forget about Barcelona's Lionel Messi is that for all he's accomplished — he's a two-time winner of the Ballon d'Or, soccer's top individual prize — he's still a kid, just 23. He's a little guy and looks as if he could never hurt you. But give him the ball and you're in trouble.

It's not normal, what he does. I know the expectation that builds up around top players, but it doesn't bother Messi. He's a competitor: he doesn't want to lose, not even in training. He reminds me of Diego Maradona, the way he dribbles past people, the way you can kick him and he'll just bounce up and carry on running with the ball, then score a goal — it's ridiculous. I played with him for three years, and it was just a joy.

Henry, formerly of Arsenal and FC Barcelona, now plays for the New York Red Bulls