Books & Reviews 📚

Book #92: Messi

Lionel Messi’s career has been a stellar ascent, and shows no signs as yet of slowing down.

Born in Rosario in Argentina, he began playing football at a very young age. He made his debut with the first team in 2003 as a 16-year-old and a year later he broke FC Barcelona’s team record for youngest footballer to score a league goal, as well as winning the league with that outstanding team. Is breakthrough season was 2006-7, when he became first team regular, and in 2008-9 he scored 38 goals to play an integral part in the team’s triple-winning success.

Since Pep Guardiola took over as manager of Barcelona in 2008, Messi has become Barcelona’s all-time top scorer in all official club competitions – at the age of 25. He scored an astonishing 91 goals in the calendar year 2012 alone. He has also excelled on the international stage, playing for his national team. But all that was achieved via hard work, sacrifices, family break-ups and huge pressure.

Guillem Balague has had unprecedented access to Messi’s inner circle: his coaches, teammates, presidents and relatives, Joan Laporta, Sandro Rosell, Gerard ‘Tata’ Martino, Alejandro Sabella, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Carlos Bilardo, Pablo Zabaleta, Cesc Fàbregas, Juanjo Brau, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Silvinho…In addition, Pep Guardiola has provided exclusive analysis of the player.

The result is an authoritative and compelling account of the mystery – and genius – that is Messi.


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Guillem Balague is a key fixture in Sky Sports’ coverage of Spanish football, appearing regularly both on live match coverage and on the weekly round-up show, Revista de La Liga. He is also the UK Correspondent for AS, the Madrid-based Spanish sports newspaper and El Larguero, Spain’s most popular sports radio show, attracting some 1.5 million listeners. His work appears regularly in twentyfour7 magazine, Bleacher Report, and in Champions magazine, where he writes a regular column on international football. He wrote the bestselling A Season on the Brink, an insider’s account of Liverpool’s 2004-05 Champions’ League winning campaign, and the biography Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning, published in 2012.

‘He is a shining light sent by God. You know when someone says, “he will make it, he will”? He was a footballer from the day he was born,’

Claudia, Cintia Arellano’s mother

Lionel Messi. The child, the man, the immigrant, the footballer.

Messi is a force to be reckoned with. He’s also an enigma. He easily captured my attention just as Michael Jackson did when I first saw him perform. I’ve never thought about understanding Leo because I see shades of myself in him when it simmers down to personality traits.

‘Leo doesn’t need money, he doesn’t want beautiful things…he’s just looking for more success.’


I’ve always maintained that Messi is a genius. A footballing genius and I don’t care for science to explain why people aren’t born geniuses. God has blessed Messi with this football talent that not even he himself could comprehend. Geniuses still need to work on their craft and that’s why they’re never satisfied when something doesn’t work out in their favor. That’s why they’re such perfectionists. Once God has blessed you with a talent, you don’t take it for granted. You go out there and you add your own initiative to it. If it means that you have to practice, practice, practice, DO IT for we were meant to work to develop our God-given talent.

People considered geniuses no matter the field they’re in, preserve their childish traits well into their adulthood even when they become family men themselves. Geniuses also need to practice their craft and I think this is the reason why they seldom fall out of love with what they do because of that passionate drive within them.

Leo the student. Ronaldinho the teacher.

The first time I saw Leo play, I thought that the ball was stuck to his boot and I sat there thinking that the ball is Leo and Leo is the ball. They’re one. He was born to play football. No argument.

‘Leo left the house with a ball, lived with the ball, and slept with the ball. He only wanted the ball,’

Rodrigo Messi

When you read Leo’s journey, you’ll understand why he has instilled so much faith in his beloved FC Barcelona. Why they’re a love affair. A romance. He is also fiercely loyal to Argentina. Although he had to leave Argentina to seek a better life, he always carried the country in his heart and soul. Leo’s dream is to win a major trophy with his country and with the World Cup looming around the corner, this might just be his last chance to do so. He came close on a few occasions, but Argentina never seems to really live up to their potential in finals. I don’t think Leo needs any major trophy for he is already one of the greatest footballers of all time in my book.

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Leo was born with a growth deficiency hormone, hence his small stature, but it didn’t stop him from chasing his dream and accomplishing more than he bargained for. He never let doubters have the last say. The author took me on a journey showing where Leo grew up in Rosario, an insight into his young school life (always with the ball), the attitude he had as a child, his passion, and his quiet personality. He was always the happiest in the company of family.

Leo has left such an impact on many people’s lives and he changed the face of history in the sport he loves so much. The book shows his (and his family) ups and downs. How he had to adapt to a new culture (Catalan) after leaving Argentina behind for better. On the day he debuted for FCB, the club that gave him everything, there was no looking back. History was made that day. He was only 17.

The author had not only taken me on Leo’s journey, but he also took me on the ups and downs I’ve suffered, enjoyed, cried and laughed with FC Barcelona. 2012. Tito. Abidal.

As I come to the end of this journey, I am reminded that family keeps us grounded. The family is the foundation and the key to our future success. Balague couldn’t have ended the book on a bittersweet note reminding us about Leo’s rite of passage from boy-genius to man (father):

And one day he will take Thiago to the park to play football. When he’s ten years old, Leo will be around 37.
And he will pass him the ball.

It’s now 2018 and Leo is a father of 3 beautiful boys: Thiago, Mateo, and Ciro (newborn). Football might be his love, but his family is his joy.

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“I told her the day Leo stops playing, I think I will lose all excitement I have for the game and will stop watching it. I love everything about football and imagining that Leo will not play any more one day distresses me. I don’t even want to think about it.”

Jorge Messi


The interviews were sometimes confusing to follow. The author should have had a DVD or CD made to accommodate the book. 


It’s a 5!


That was the question on everyone’s lips in Leo’s classroom at the Juan Mantovani Middle School. His school was situated in the district of Las Heras in the south of the Argentinian city of Rosario, close to his home. Leo had missed a week of school and, apart from brief illness, he rarely did that. His desk stood empty, and at playtime, when someone got the ball out, the game seemed even more confusing. There is not football pitch at the Juan Mantovani and there are always too many kids for the small, cramped playground. It did not encourage spacious, expansive games and, with Leo absent, even less so. It had been some days since he had been seen.


love coffeelove coffeelove coffeelove coffee… one coffee down due to unnecessary gibberish at times (I felt as if I was reading results about a conducted experiment sometimes).

Books & Reviews 📚

Book #91: I Am Zlatan: My Story On and Off the Field

Daring, flashy, innovative, volatile—no matter what they call him, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of soccer’s brightest stars. A top-scoring striker with Paris Saint-Germain and captain of the Swedish national team, he has dominated the world’s most storied teams, including Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, and AC Milan. But his life wasn’t always so charmed.

Born to Balkan immigrants who divorced when he was a toddler, Zlatan learned self-reliance from his rough-and-tumble neighborhood. While his father, a Bosnian Muslim, drank to forget the war back home, his mother’s household was engulfed in chaos. Soccer was Zlatan’s release. Mixing in street moves and trick plays, Zlatan was a wild talent who rode to practice on stolen bikes and relished showing up the rich kids—opponents and teammates alike. Goal by astonishing goal, the brash young outsider grew into an unlikely prodigy and, by his early twenties, an international phenomenon.

Told as only the man himself could tell it, featuring stories of friendships and feuds with the biggest names in the sport, I Am Zlatan is a wrenching, uproarious, and ultimately redemptive tale for underdogs everywhere.

“I’ve never enjoyed being around uptight people. I like guys who go through red lights, if you know what I mean.”

Zlatan Ibrahimović.

I’ve always wondered why the need to seek so much attention in front of the footballing world and this book answered that question although I skimmed through some unnecessary chapters.

His story begins as a ‘problem child’ growing up in Rosengård, Sweden. His parents didn’t have time to pay special attention to him and his siblings, but they turned out all right. Yes, he’s flashy and arrogant, but what Zlatan likes the most is the center of attention and when that is taken away from him, he becomes mad.

Perfect example: FC Barcelona.

There, Zlatan was playing at the best football club in the world. He’s scoring goals week in, week out, the fans love him, they scream his name, the center of attention. He manages to sound like a bitter school child when he complained ‘then Messi started saying things.’ Was he dumb then Zlatan? However, I’m reading Messi by Guillem Balague at the moment and the fog became clearer: Zlatan gave Pep an ultimatum: ‘The midget had to be dropped!’ Pep eventually takes away the attention from him, and Zlatan is all mean and bad. There is no Z in team! If we go back to the time when Messi started to ‘talk’ Rijkaard had promised Leo that he would eventually play in the center, but it didn’t materialize until Pep.

Another example: Juventus was relegated to Serie B in 2006 due to a cheating scandal and they had both championships voided. Serie B? Zlatan was too BIG for the second division and even refused to join the team for an away match. He was rude to coach at the time, Didier Deschamps and like the diva who was now used to getting everything he wanted, he called his agent and asked for a move. Juventus wasn’t good for him anymore, but who were the likes of Gigi Buffon, Alessandro Del Piero, and even Giorgio Chiellini, who stayed with the team? Juventus won Serie B and returned to Serie A the following year.

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The book was kind of frustrating to read and I’ve had to put it down twice. The third time I returned to it, I just wanted to finish and get it over with hence, I read the remaining 16 or so chapters in one day. Zlatan feels and thinks that he is more important than any club and the reason why the club wins a league or a European Cup is due to his goals. In his mind, he is a god and the team needs him for they’ll lose when he doesn’t play. Basically, the book is Zlatan v the World. He is important and famous and everyone hates him because of that. He needs to get over himself. He has played for some of the greatest teams and scored some beautiful and memorable goals, but he remains bitter and unforgivable.

Zlatan is full of himself, and sadly, some people like his attitude. If you don’t want to read about the cocky, annoying, irritating man that is Zlatan whose dictionary includes 3 main words (stupid, boring and the ‘f’ word), then go out and buy that Pirlo book. It’s supposed to be good. This book was not inspiring, nor was it meant to be. It was just a peek inside Zlatan’s world. The reviewers who called this book the most inspiring book they’ve ever read was not honest with themselves. I am certain some of them gave up halfway, but hey when you got friends in high places eh? 😉


It captures the man that is Zlatan. 4/5.


Pep Guardiola, the Barcelona manager, with his gray suits and brooding expressions, came up to me, looking a little self-conscious.


love coffeelove coffee

Challenges/Tags/Fun Stuff

Share your world for week of February 19th

It’s that time again! That time for Cee’s Share Your World Challenge!

How do you like your eggs?

Someone said that there are 11 ways to cook an egg, but I prefer mine boiled or scrambled. If it’s runny, leaky, or crying, I don’t want it.

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Have you ever met anyone famous?

Let’s see… I met Tom Cruise at the movies, Michael Jackson on the CD and I met Messi at the Camp Nou. Ah, just kidding.

I actually met Chris Birchall when he used to play for T&T. He was my favorite local footballer on the team (and also Russell Latapy) at the time. My sister dragged me to an event at the stadium where the government thanked the team for their efforts at the World Cup. I had no intention of meeting any of the footballers, but on our way out, my sister saw Birchall and she dragged me over along with some other people to say hi.

Birchall was actually so nice and down to earth, I considered kidnapping him and making him the star of my football fictions.

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Kidding! But he talked with us for a while on the football pitch and even smiled for a picture or two. At that time, I was not blogging as yet, otherwise, I would’ve interviewed him for the football blog I recently closed shop on.

It was really nice meeting him, though, for while some of the footballers were acting like they were high and mighty, this one actually made time to chit chat a bit.

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What was the first thing you bought with your own money?

I wish I had a cool story like Tom Cruise – he paid for his sister’s college tuition with his first paycheck – but I don’t. I bought Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album and played it until I memorized every lyric, every note, every bass, and every ‘hee hee!’. At that time, MJ was the King of my music heart! How times have changed.

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What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

My friend Keren! We haven’t seen each other in ages and she stopped by my work last week. We caught up and exchanged stories about God working in our lives. It was a blessed evening and I wish I can turn back the clock and go back to that period. 💙

Also, Tammy got back from her trip safe and sound and I enjoyed reading her wonderful and spiritually moving experience! She won the best camper award, so we’re going to turn that into a celebration and everyone’s invited! 💙

Thank you, God, for these wonderful beautiful beings. I am blessed to have them in my life.

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Wow, this post was so lengthy, I felt like I was divulging TMI! 😰

***GIFs and pictures via Google Search


Coffee Tuesday! ☕, Ray & Marcus da Díxon 💙

Teaser Tuesday: The Barcelona Job

Teaser Tuesday:

My love for football is only growing despite our love-hate relationship. This 2017/18 season, I’ve decided to work on a story revolving around FC Barcelona which I’ll be working on at least twice a week. It’s also an excuse to practice my writing. ^^

There’s going to be talks of dribbles and tricks…

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Record breaking milestones and silverware…

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Potential goodbyes…

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And of course, friendship and love…

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Here’s what I’ve worked on thus far:


I literally suck at writing summaries, plots, etc., because they tend to change as the story progresses and I have to go back and rewrite them, but I have something that I can see myself sticking with.

It’s a French revolution in Spain!

Marcus da Díxon is a young football coach who is given the monumental task of overseeing FC Barcelona for the 2017-18 season. The team is aiming to win every silverware available beginning with the International Champions Cup. When Marcus first takes charge of the team he makes it clear to the boys that he did not take up the position to lose and he won’t be tolerating bad conduct.

The boys soon learn that their new coach is very vocal and vows to try their best to avoid embarrassment in the press, but things don’t always go as planned when they discovered that their new boss dislikes everything that their rival Real Madrid stands for including their bald headed coach.


The story is still in the early stage, so I don’t have many chapters as yet. This bit is taken from the first chapter that I am yet to edit so excuse grammatical errors and lame sentences. 🙂

The journalists couldn’t stop staring at the new FC Barcelona coach and his mirror identical assistant. They were around 5’11” with strong handsome features. Their eyes were bluer than the skies above and their hair so brown that it could almost pass for a shade of auburn. They couldn’t be told apart very easily and the journalists were afraid to address the wrong one so no one said anything for a little over a minute until Marcus sighs and broke the silence with a dry joke,

“Don’t be afraid to speak Catalan; I’m a polyglot and so is my other half.”

A few of the journalists chuckled.

“Welcome to Barcelona, Mr. da Díxon,” a blonde haired man decided to go bravely. “We’re still on the fence about you given that the club ditched tradition this time and went for someone who didn’t even play for the club to coach the team. What makes you so special?”

Marcus shrugs. “Aren’t you special too?”


I am having fun working on covers for potential stories and this one is my favorite thus far… 

Thank you for reading. 🙂


The groom wore Armani.

“Who’s that?” asked a nine-year-old Messi, Luca recalled. Leo later wrote the eight-year-old Antonella a letter in which he exclaimed: “One day we will be boyfriend and girlfriend”.

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Portugal had gotten kicked out of the Confederations Cup, Cristiano Ronaldo had flown home to see his twins, but the sporting world was talking about one thing over the weekend: Lionel Messi’s lavish wedding to long-term partner and mother of his two boys, Antonella Roccuzzo.

Although the bride looked stunning in a gown by Rosa Clará, all eyes were on her groom.

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The event was billed as the ‘Wedding of the Century’ by the media and it looked like everyone had a good time. Congrats Leo and Anto.

Coffee Tuesday! ☕

Teaser Tuesday: a drawing and some prompts!

Teaser Tuesday:

I am not superb at drawing anything, but I wanted to share my latest drawing with you. It was kind of frustrating trying to draw her, but I like how it turned out, in the end, considering that I am not an expert. However, I need to work on many areas including the lips, hair, and eyes. I think the nose is fine, though. 😛

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Also, my amazing family and friends have been piling me with prompts including photo ones such as…

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I’ll definitely be sharing the results soon. Hope your Tuesday was as awesome as mine! 🙂

**GIFs/Images that don’t belong to LPM are via Google Search (Right-click for original source)


#amwriting ✍

Unlikely Guest

Short Story #1

short story sunday

FINALLY! I can kick off what I’ve been putting off for the longest while due to procrastination and busy schedules. I’m kicking off Short Story Sunday with an old favorite of mine (it’s from 2011). It’s a football short featuring two of the world’s biggest ‘rivals’: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Don’t expect stories every Sunday though, for I won’t be able to keep up. I am a rebel writer and I write when I get in the mood. I am not one of those writers who complete short stories in one go (according to the topic). The most I aim to provide this year is 20 tops. I know, selfish, but I can’t share everything on here.

I have a confession: it’s not 100% edited and I know this goes against all writing rules, but this one is the only exception.

Without further adieu… UNLIKELY GUEST.

Cristiano Ronaldo rolled his eyes in both disgust and frustration at the television which was running and re-running images of Lionel Messi. Messi in his pimped out burgundy velvet jacket; which by the way, Cristiano most definitely approved. That jacket was a winner’s jacket from the very moment it stepped in front of the flashing lights. Messi with his damn infectious boyish smile as he made his way to the stage and toward media hound puppy, Pele, who was putting on a show for the world to see him embracing and accepting the young player. Everybody knows Pele is mad about his name being strung in the same sentence with the gifted Argentine. Messi as he put his fingers then his hand on the golden ball.

Messi with his Ballon d’Or.

Yes. His!

Cristiano had nothing against Messi. No, not at all but he had plans for that Ballon d’Or. He had already written his acceptance speech – although Kaka had warned him about it. He had also planned to tease Messi with the golden award, by asking him if he want to touch what he missed out on, then hold it high above Messi’s head so the little twerp wouldn’t be able to reach it, much less, touch it. And then he, Cristiano would have sneered and grinned and spat,

“So how does it feel that you’ve come close but not quite to netting a golden hat trick, eh? Even Platini had it all wrong.”

And then he planned to laugh in the Argentine’s face and tell him …

Sounds from the screen brought him back to the present. Okay, so that was not the exact plan, but it sounded nice and arrogant and it made him feel better. A whole lot better. Besides, the ceremony was two nights ago. Coach told him not to attend because of the intense training in preparation against Malaga the next day. But Cristiano felt otherwise. He wanted to attend to show the world that he was not afraid of being second to Messi on the world stage, for at the end of the day, image was everything to Cristiano Ronaldo.

So he should have been there. Even if it was just for face time. He should have been sitting in the front row next to Messi or Xavi or heck, in the middle of the Barcelona buddies! See how they would have liked that. He should have been there to collect his FIFA Pro Award and not Zidane, who was basking in the glory – his glory – as if he had the right. He should have been …

This time a firm but hesitant rap on the door brought him back to the present once again. Who could it be at – he checked his watch – almost ten PM on this chilly Madrid night? It better not be Kaka, he thought as he picked himself up and lazily strolled to get the door in his Real Madrid sweatshirt and track pants. And it better not be Benzema coming through with an excuse to get help with his Spanish so he can pick up Latin women or Özil trying to …

“Leo?” Cristiano sputtered. He squinted. He blinked. He rubbed his eyes. He pinched himself. He was not hallucinating. Lionel Messi was standing on his door step with a goofy grin and a box in his hand. “W-What are you doing here?”

“I brought cake.” Messi gestured at the box in his hand with his chin.

“If you’re trying to be funny, it’s not gonna work. Everyone knows you can’t tell good jokes!”

Leo shrugged. “Aren’t you going to let me in?”

Cristiano contemplated the question. Why must he invite his rival into his house? Was this some kind of a joke? A trick perhaps? Maybe FC Barcelona sent Messi to secretly lure him away from his beloved Madrid? Whatever it was, this visit was going to be interesting. “Sure, come in.” Cristiano held the door ajar for the Argentine Crack, and then quickly scanned the abandoned street to see if anyone was camping out with cameras aimed at his house. If his teammates got word of this visit he will not live to see the end of it. He scowled at Messi’s parked SUV in the drive way and secured the door.

“What are you doing here?” I hate you. “You hate me!”

Messi tutted. “Oh really? I wonder who said that?” he rested the box on the newly imported Brazilian coffee table not even bothering to give the dwelling the look-over. That annoyed Cristiano. Leo started to open the box. “So, you bastard, you couldn’t be there to see me lift my third consecutive Ballon d’Or, eh?”

“Erm,” Cristiano walked back to the couch and sat down. There was a beer commercial running. “I had practice. And why would I want to see you lift it?”

Messi shrugged. “I would have let you touch it.”

“Really?” Cristiano looked at the box. Messi was beginning to lift something shiny, gold and round out of it and … “Is that what I think it is?”

Messi nodded. “Yes.”

Cristiano watched as the Argentine set the prestigious award on the coffee table. It looked as if it belonged. “Who knows you’re here?”

“No one,” Messi almost rolled his eyes. “I’m not a kid, Cris.”

“I didn’t say you …” Cristiano scooped the golden ball off the table. “It’s so beautiful. No scratch that. It’s gorgeous. What if I accidently drop it on the floor and break it?”

Messi snorted. “Don’t be a Ramos now!”

Cristiano laughed. When Real Madrid won the 2011 Copa del Rey, Ramos was so excited he let the thing fall under a moving bus. Mourinho was stark mad although Iker tried to convince him that Ramos was drunk.

Anyway …

“Maybe I’ll win it in 2012.”

Messi shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Hey, I don’t like that tone. What’s with that?”

“Lots of players are bringing their A game. We may not even be in the top three next year.”

“I don’t see anyone else trying to give us a run for the golden glory.”

“Do you not see the way Fabregas is playing? I wouldn’t write him off as a future Ballon d’Or winner. And Alexis got something going for him. He’s going to blow up one day.”

Cristiano finally set the award down and smiled at his rival. He was not bad at all. “Thanks. Three years straight I lost to you and here you are not trying to rub it in my face. I guess compared to me, you are a saint.”

Messi winced. “Please! Leave the name calling for Iker!”

They laughed. Okay, so Messi was a little funny, but Cristiano wasn’t going to say so. At least he got to handle what was going to be his next year. It’ll be his second. And maybe he’ll repay the unexpected visit. Messi stayed a little while longer. He declined offered drinks and treats. They talked about their family and girlfriends. When he finally escorted the Argentine to the door, Cristiano warned,

“Better not get too comfortable though. I’m still gonna kick your butt on the field.”

Messi looked back and grinned. “I expect you to, Cris. I expect you to.”

“Hala Madrid!” Cristiano shouted.

Messi answered triumphantly, “Visca el Barça!” as he made his way to his SUV.

End Note: Football fans are often torn over their favorite teams, especially the RM & Barça fans. I used RM’s CR and Barca’s Messi to show that it doesn’t matter which team you support, for its hard making friends and when you finally make good friends, they don’t support your club and it may tear the friendship apart all in the name of football. Don’t let that happen to your friendship.

Also, the last time I wrote this, Cristiano did in fact win the Ballon d’Or. This time around, Messi seem to be the favorite once again after a stellar season.

© Diana Tyler

Originally posted here on my football blog: