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Leo Messi: Argentina’s Best Export Ever?

Why do doctors want to study the brain of Argentine soccer star Leo Messi?

February 25, 2012

(Credit: CGinspiration -

As the value of Argentina’s soy exports vary widely, another export is having a sustained increase. Leo Messi’s performance last Sunday, when he scored four of FC Barcelona’s five goals in a rout of Valencia, only serves to increase the value of anything relating to the (almost) supernatural soccer player from Argentina. Messi is fast becoming one Argentina’s best exports ever.

When Michal Kadlec and Manuel Friedrich, two Bayer Leverkusen players, squabbled over Messi’s shirt after playing against the Barcelona team, they only confirmed what many already suspected: Even Messi’s shirt has magical powers. The players’ behavior was severely criticized by Rudi Voeller, the German team’s coach, who declared, “What the pair did was over the top.”

Kadlec, who scored his team’s only goal in the 3-1 loss to Barça (as the Barcelona team is familiarly known), later said, “When you play against such a player, then you always want his shirt.”

Voeller declared to the German newspaper Bild that he was truly disappointed with the players’ behavior, particularly when “90% of the team was fully concentrated on the game.” Voeller noted that the players plan to auction off Messi’s shirts for a good cause.

This is not the first time that members of an opposing team showed their admiration for the Argentine player. During many games, after Messi performs one of his brilliant moves, opposing players pat him affectionately on the head, as if to say “it was a shame that you couldn’t make a goal after this beautiful play.”

It also happened after a match last year between the Argentine and Costa Rican national teams. After that match, all of the Costa Rican players lined up to have Messi sign his autograph on their jerseys.

Jose Delbo, an 87 year-old Argentinean fan of Messi who follows every game from his home in Florida, told me recently, “I have never before been so moved seeing a player’s game as I am so now with Messi. After some of his beautiful plays I almost feel like crying.”

Many claim that Messi is the result of Pep Guardiola’s teachings in Barcelona. They seem to forget that as a child, in Argentina, Messi was already a brilliant player. Ernesto Vecchio, a coach from his youth, declared recently, “As a player, he is very similar now to how he was as a youngster.” He added, “He decides in milliseconds what he is going to do with the ball at his feet.”

Because of his spectacular speed and brilliance in making decisions, how Messi’s brain works is now being studied by a Dutch physician, Pieter Medendorp, of Radboud University in Nijmegen. Dr. Medendorp hopes to learn “how people make split-second decisions and know how to prioritize.”

Dr. Medendorp is fascinated by how people make quick decisions, particularly when moving. It is Messi’s ability to concentrate opponents in front of him and then almost effortlessly weave through them that particularly interests Dr. Medendorp. “In the field,” Dr. Medendorp noted, “Messi knows where to find the [other players] and then decide not only how to escape from a marking or where to go but also what to do with the ball.”

Guardiola, who carefully nurtured Messi’s talent at Barcelona, said, “Messi plays even when he doesn’t play.” Recognizing Messi’s unusual skill, Guardiola has been determined in his efforts to build the Barcelona team around Messi, by finding players who understand their support roles and by taking into account new players’ compatibility with him. The team cancelled Swedish player Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s expensive contract after he didn’t get along with the star.

Recently in London, the retired Brazilian soccer player Pelé said, “I would love to play with Lionel Messi. But Messi is an incomplete player because he cannot use his head.” That criticism opinion is not shared by Argentinean Maradona, who said that Messi “is at a select level, being the best in the world and a star in Barcelona. Leo is playing a kick-about with Jesus.”

Or as Ray Hudson, a former player in Britain and North America and now a television commentator, has written in a poem called “Vintage Messi:”

How many angels
can dance on the head of a pin?
How magnificent
is Messi?
There is no answer
It’s like counting the bubbles
In a bottle of Champagne.


Because of his spectacular speed and brilliance in making decisions, how Messi's brain works is now being studied by a Dutch physician.

The retired Brazilian soccer player Pelé recently said, "I would love to play with Lionel Messi. But Messi is an incomplete player because he cannot use his head."