Atleti bow down to magic of Messi

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Opposition fans offering a standing ovation to honour the brilliance of visiting players is unusual in football, but not unheard of. Ronaldo at Old Trafford, Ronaldinho in the Bernabeu, Pablo Couñago against Bury St Edmonds are just a few examples.

But a situation when the home support sings the name of the praiseworthy player is a completely different kettle of cookies.

However, that’s a memorable moment that La Liga Loca witnessed at the Vicente Calderón on Tuesday night in the Copa del Rey clash between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona.

As Leo Messi popped in his final goal of a historic hat-trick, some sections of the home crowd sang ‘Atleti!’ in a doomed attempt to lift the spirits of their trembling team. Others countered the chant with ‘Messi!’

Messi laps up rare Atletico ovation

This was partly down to the brilliance of Leo’s performance, which included a dazzling dribble ending in a strike against the bar. The blog maybe falling for overexcited hyperbole here, but it is still convinced that some home fans were disappointed that the ball did not go in.

But the message of love to Messi was also due to the fact that the Calderón crowd had been in a peculiar mood all night.

Despite a decent enough season so far, there is a complaint amongst the rojiblanco faithful that when the their side faces the big boys of La Liga, there is more bottle on display in the Betis home end than with their players.

And this is why there were sarcastic chants of ‘Olé!’ from the Calderón as the Atleti defence attempted to pass the ball into the Barcelona half before accidentally booting it out of play - an action that resulted in one of the biggest cheers of the night.  

There were even cantankerous cries of ‘Aguirre Out!’ when Messi and Barcelona’s third went in - cries that Aguirre is well used to by now.

“I’m not thinking about resigning,” sighed the Mexican manager for the umpteenth time in his Atlético career. And considering his team are doing just dandy in the league and even better in Europe, Aguirre is quite right not to throw in the towel.

"You want me to resign? Tell me something I don't know..."

La Liga Loca was originally going to use today’s column as a bit of a childish rant. So, no change there really.

The blog was going to have a pop at Pep Guardiola - and possibly Javier Aguirre - for resting players for the cup clash.

It was going to be a ‘football is supposed to be entertainment for the masses, jumpers for goal posts, overpaid millionaires’ riff.

The half-hearted and paper-thin argument that the blog was going to put up was that Tuesday’s game was a stand out cup clash in front of a sell-out crowd on a bank holiday with players that have just had a fortnight off with the Champions League still miles away.

Pep Guardiola had left Valdés, Xavi, Puyol, Márquez, Eto’o and Gudjohnsen back in the Catalan capital and Thierry Henry on the bench.

A defeatist Javier Aguirre had received a bashing from the press for advising that Kun Agüero would start the game from the sidelines - as he did against Liverpool.

However, the Argentine striker never even made it as far at the Vicente Calderón, having been struck down with a sudden attack 'of the flu' 'on Tuesday.

But not before managing a late dinner with Maradona the night before. “It all sounds a bit funny,” commented Marca in Wednesday’s editorial.

As it happened, the rant was soon made redundant by the Barça players who barely moved out of second gear but were more than a match for Atlético.

But of course, it was Messi who was the King of the Hill for the evening.

“Messi, Messi, Meeeesssi!” screamed Sport’s headline on Wednesday.

“Messi, Messi, Meeeesssi!” yelled Mundo Deportivo’s headline on Wednesday.

And, er, “Messi, Messi, Messi!” was Marca’s front banner on Wednesday.

Only AS broke ranks with their headline of “Raúl is great, too!” although, technically speaking, this is a complete lie.

“Nobody can stop him,” fawned Josep Maria Casanovas in Sport, “he’s a genius.”

And La Liga Loca must make a firm and unheard-of stand and agree with the Catalan columnist. Statues must immediately be made of Messi, the one true God. He was that good.

In the post match press conference, the fantastic forward had even put a smile on Pep Guardiola’s face which was quite an achievement considering the Barcelona boss looked as if he was dying of the flu.

"Has he scored again yet?"

“First of all, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year,” announced Pep cheerfully, as he sat down. \

With Guardiola all smiles over his Argentine superstar and Javier Aguirre agreeing that “Messi brings a bit of the cinema to his team,” all were in complete agreement that little Leo is the best player in the world right now.

Everyone except one dissenter... Marca’s Roberto Gómez.

On the morning of the game, the Madrid-mad columnist penned an article arguing that “I insist, Robben is much better than Messi.”

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