Fabricio Coloccini: 'Messi is so quick, there is nothing you can do really'


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The Independent Online

Apparently the televised perception of Lionel Messi is not correct; worryingly, the Barcelona forward is quicker in real life.

We are told too often these days about what is revelatory, but to be informed that the fleet-footed Argentinian, who scored five times against the bewildered Germans of Leverkusen in midweek and whose current tally in La Liga and for his country is now a mind-boggling 250 goals from 378 games is slowed down to television viewers is a genuine mouth-opener.

Fabricio Coloccini, the Newcastle captain, has played with Messi for Argentina and against him when the defender was with Deportivo la Coruna in Spain. He offers this appraisal: "On the TV he looks very quick but in life he is quicker than he is on the television. It is unbelievable.

"Sometimes you watch it on television and you say, 'Yes, that was good but the defender can do more'. But really when you are live, and it is on the pitch, he is so, so quick. There really is nothing you can do.

He adds: "When I was in training with Argentina, you make sure you're on his team. You want to play with him, not against him.

"It is more difficult because he is small. He is small and strong. Sometimes, when you're small and have strong legs it is difficult to knock him off the ball.

"Can I compare between him and Maradona? It is so, so difficult. Maradona was the best player in the world for a long time. Messi is 24 years old. He is writing his history now. He is doing really, really well. I think if he keeps going in this way, he will be better than Di Stefano, Maradona, Cruyff, a lot of players.

"He is unbelievable. It is nice because he is from Argentina. It is very important. There was Maradona and now there is Messi. Sometimes it is difficult to say he has not won the World Cup. The team is 11 players and he can't win the game alone. He needs team-mates as well, but he played the last friendly game and he scored a hat-trick."

Coloccini has cemented his own place in the hearts and minds of Newcastle fans. His transfer to St James' Park four years ago feels an awfully long time ago given what has happened at that particular football club. His desire to be a success was perhaps best exemplified when his father, Oswaldo, a former professional footballer in Argentina, flew to the North-east at the start of the year and went shopping with his son.

"We went to the Metro Centre and the people said, 'Colo, you have to stay', or 'Colo, we need you', or 'Colo, we love you'," says Coloccini.

"My father doesn't speak really good English but he understood that. He turned to me and said, 'Colo, you have to stay, the people love you, the city is nice, the club want you'. Sometimes, it is not about money, they [the fans] are not paid to love you.

"He watches every game I play. If it is not on television he finds it on the computer. He has heard the fans sing my name at games, all the feeling that they show me. For him, his son is happy. He played football for 16 years in the first division. He was a centre-back and he taught me a lot. He knows how important it is to be happy.

"Me and my family are very happy here. It was very important to get it sorted. The club has gone up. We are doing things well now. Of course the club has got better since I first came here. We had a lot of problems when I first came here with managers, too many changes and now I think it is more stable.

"A lot of players have spent years here and that is important for the team to grow, for the spirit and for the fans. If you have five or six players who stay here and they know the team, you have a nucleus and you have something to build on."

Arsenal v Newcastle Utd is on Sky Sports 1 tomorrow, kick-off 8pm