Lionel Messi, the greatest footballer ever to don a pair of boots, has told the media, in the run up to the game between our club and Barcelona in Dublin this weekend, about his affection for Celtic, and he’s stated that Celtic Park is his favourite away ground in football.
None of that is exactly new news, and unlike other clubs who’s fans cling to nonsense about signing players such as Van Persie, we’re under no illusions about the great Argentine coming to our club to close out his career … but Messi gets it alright, he understands what we are and what we’re about, that we’re not just another football club but an institution.
Messi is one of a number of top players – real, genuine, world class players – who has praised Celtic Park and the atmosphere inside it. Few have seen anything quite like it, with only Anfield coming close to matching the passion and noise on a big night. It’s one of the reasons that not only our fans but other clubs want to see us back in the Champions League; our ground is a special place, one that nobody who plays there soon forgets.
He goes on to say that:
“We have had some games against Celtic that I will always remember, and they are a big club, with big fans, and I would like to see them qualify this year – it is where they belong … I have a Celtic jersey at home. The games against Celtic were special and I want to remember them.”
There are those who will say that this is simply a player trying to build up a big match, but let’s face it this is Celtic v Barcelona. In Dublin. That match would draw a crowd at midnight on a wet Wednesday. It needs no build-up, no spinning, no hard sell. Messi wasn’t even in the squad earlier in the week, and his inclusion is a draw in itself.
The game tomorrow is a big one, and the final preparation Brendan will have before the Champions League qualifier in midweek. Messi recognises that fact too and appreciates that Celtic have “more important games on their minds” than a friendly. Yet he also acknowledges that we don’t do friendlies, even when the relationship between our club and theirs is as strong, and passionate, as it is and will always remain.
This is a special occasion, and that the world’s most special player is taking part makes it more so. But he knows too that we’re special as well, and he never tires of pointing that out.
He’s a class act for more than just his skills on the pitch.
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