I, for one, am shocked that Madrid-based newspaper Marca have decided to take a perfectly good goal off Lionel Messi.
Barcelona beat local rivals Espanyol 2-0 at the Nou Camp courtesy of a brace from their legendary No10.
At least that’s how most of us saw it.
Marca decided to reinvent the own goal rule to deny Messi his first — a free-kick from just outside the box.
The ball was going in after the Argentine lifted the ball over the wall and Victor Sanchez should have cleared as he back-peddled to his goalline.
However, the Espanyol midfielder mis-judged his header and deflected the ball into his own net…
Despite the chipped nature of Messi’s effort (is there such a thing as a Panenka free-kick?), goalkeeper Diego Lopez didn’t appear to the shot covered.
That’s irrelevant anyway, the fact is Messi’s shot was on target and was deflected in — as per the long-standing rules, the goal is credited to the attacker.
And every outlet (including La Liga) has awarded Messi the goal, except Marca, who have ruled it was a Sanchez own goal.
The Spanish paper have a reputation for being pro-Madrid and this latest act of pettiness won’t go down well in Catalonia.
Marca award the coveted Pichichi award to the top scorer in La Liga each season.
With Cristiano Ronaldo having departed last summer, it’s been a one-horse race this campaign.
Team-mate Luis Suarez is Messi’s closest rival for the individual award but the Uruguayan’s tally of 18 league goals pales in comparison to Messi’s 30 (or 31 if you’re being fair).
Given the gap between Messi and the rest, you wonder what Marca have to gain by altering the own goal rules?
Marca have history in this department; Messi has been denied perfectly good goals before in the Pichichi race while Ronaldo was inexplicably credited with a Pepe goal when the Portuguese superstar was neck-and-neck with Messi in the goalscoring stakes a few seasons ago.
It is a curious quirk that a newspaper is the arbitrator of Spain’s equivalent of the Golden Boot, rather than the league.
Regardless of Marca’s harsh judgement, Messi will undoubtedly collect his sixth Pichichi at the end of the season.
And unless Kylian Mbappe can overturn a five-goal margin, Barca’s free-scoring forward will retain the Golden Shoe as well.
I’m sure Marca will be the first to congratulate him…