What is the greatest feeling in the world?
Falling asleep in a clean, comfortable bed? The first bite of a juicy steak when you’re hungry? Being brought to orgasm by someone you love?
They all have their qualities, but they don’t compare to watching Lionel Messi play football.
Last night I watched Chelsea play as well as any visiting team at the Nou Camp this season.
They lost 3-0.
Why? Because Barcelona have a genius blessed with unfathomable talent.
Thibaut Courtois was at fault for the first goal, there’s no justification for dressing the opener up as inspired Messi brilliance.
But the second goal…
Messi mugs Cesc Fabregas in the centre-circle before evading Andreas Christensen’s slide tackle with an elegant skip.
Sat on the sofa, I find myself leaning forward.
Cesar Azpilicueta comes across to cover, everything under control right? The Spaniard is arguably the best defender the Premier League has to offer right now.
Nutmeg. See you later, thanks for coming.
I let out an involuntary noise, something between a gasp and a groan.
At the edge of the box, Messi squares the ball into open space. A pass to nobody? Not quite…
Ousmane Dembele gallops into shot, takes a touch, and leathers it into the top corner.
The moment belongs to the young Frenchman, it’s his first goal in Barcelona colours and in a Champions League knockout game of all fixtures.
But everyone acknowledges Messi as the architect, as always.
By the time the third goal goes in, I’m in ecstasy.
Messi’s second touch, a deliberately heavy knock into space that allows him to accelerate past three defenders, is elite level forward play.
Courtois is nutmegged again and I’m on my feet.
Just me, alone in my living room with a tomato soup cooling on the coffee table, standing up with my arms outstretched.
Suddenly the embarrassment descends upon me.
I quickly sit down and look out the window to check if anyone walking past saw my needlessly theatrical celebration for a goal scored by a team I don’t support.
I didn’t have a bet on Barcelona to win, I don’t have anything against Chelsea, the result was relatively meaningless to me.
But this is what Messi does, he coaxes raw emotion out of neutral onlookers.
Watching him play conjures up an oxymoron in me — exhilarated serenity.
You may say drugs and/or sex offer something similar but Messi manages the dosage the better.
His magic moments resurrect childlike feelings: the simple joy of a goal, the sensation of watching Playstation football, a desire for the game to morph into a farcical thrashing.
Get a hat-trick, get four, get ten, just give me more — inject it into my veins.
Messi is the only player who has ever consistently made me feel this way throughout his career.
Naturally then, I’m inclined to think of him as the greatest ever.
However, I’m aware that Cristiano Ronaldo exclusively impacts hundreds of thousands of fans in the same way.
And that’s why I would never strongly disagree with anyone who believes the Real Madrid legend is the best in history, because they are just reacting to that special, better-than-sex feeling.
I firmly believe that age-old debate boils down to personal preference and so there’s really no point arguing over it.
Many of you may experience this feeling when watching Messi and Ronaldo, and possibly several other players.
I envy you, I have to rely solely on Messi in this monopoly of mine.
The point is, no matter who gives you the feeling or how it manifests itself, it’s blissful in way nothing else humans have discovered.
Go on then, one more hit, just one more…
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