A GOOD few years ago some bright spark came up with the idea of flogging T-shirts with “Bored of the Beckhams” splashed across the front.
When Manchester United fired the Special One in December, football had earned a good rest from Jose Mourinho. But nobody tires of talking about Lionel Messi.
In the streets surrounding the Nou Camp on Wednesday evening, you could not walk past a tapas bar without a TV showing his free-kick flying past Alisson.
The locals have seen him score 348 times inside that stadium (281 with his left foot, 57 with his right, nine headers and one other).
And yet, Messi still leaves them panting for more.
Yesterday, boarding a plane full with weary Scousers at 7am, the Little Master’s 600th Barcelona goal was being repeatedly played on their mobile phones.
Camera angles were scrutinised, analysed and pored over in the minutes before the aircraft took to the skies.
When they got to the other end, everybody in England was talking about the GOAT — Greatest Of All Time.
That is the thing with Messi, because the Barcelona forward has enduring qualities — a permanence that commands complete respect.
He has spent 15 years at the highest level of professional sport, winning the Champions League four times and appearing in another four semi-finals.
Each year, his appetite undiminished, he comes back for more. He has the mentality of a champion.
In Graeme Souness’ first autobiography No Half Measures, he talks about the demands made at Liverpool.
When you win one league title, the true test is to defend it the following year when everybody is out to crush you.
As a player, Souness won consecutive championships at Anfield in 1979 and 1980, and again in 1982, 1983 and 1984, before taking up a new challenge at Sampdoria.
Trophy-hunting became an obsession.
Chelsea had it for a time, finally fulfilling owner Roman Abramovich’s dream to win the Champions League against Bayern Munich in 2012.
Since then they have fallen away, scarcely making an impact in Europe under a series of high-profile, demanding managers.
At Barca, Messi has played under Frank Rijkaard, Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino, Luis Enrique and Ernesto Valverde.
His form has never dipped.
Whenever you have the pleasure of watching the Little Master at work first hand, there is always something to learn.
It was only a few weeks ago, when Enrique opened up on his difficult relationship with Messi, that he spoke about his unique ability to mentally map a game in the opening minutes.
When Messi appears detached and uninterested in the opening quarter, he spends the time sizing up the opposition and working out where the game will be won and lost.
It was won after 75 minutes on Wednesday night, with the first leg running away from Liverpool, when he read the rebound off the crossbar from Luis Suarez’s effort.
What came next, with a full house waiting so expectantly for magical Messi to whip his 82nd-minute free-kick beyond Alisson, was to witness brilliance.
The 600th goal of his club career ranks among his finest — but it is difficult to separate it from the very, very best.
His slalom run past five Real Madrid defenders, before beating Iker Casillas with his right foot inside the Bernabeu in the 2011 Champions League semi-final, is a personal favourite.
So, too, was the drilled, left-footed effort beyond goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar to make it 2-1 in the final at Wembley against Manchester United.
At the time he was being trolled on social media because he had never scored on English soil.
Some people never learn.
The Argentine superstar got two more in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Liverpool, taking his total to 26 goals in 33 appearances against English clubs.
That run will go on for a good while yet because Messi, at the age of 31, is showing no signs of wear and tear — or football fatigue.
Enjoy him. Admire him. Salute him.
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VOTE MAY SUIT CHRIS
CHRIS WILDER should put on his best suit to attend the League Managers’ Association dinner on May 14.
The Manager of the Year vote takes into account the resources and budget available at the bosses’ respective clubs.
With the boardroom battles at Sheffield United making life almost intolerable, getting the Blades promoted under those conditions is an outstanding achievement.
If Wally Downes keeps AFC Wimbledon in League One this weekend — having taken over in December when they were seven points adrift of safety — he will not be far behind.
THE alarming lack of leadership at Arsenal was highlighted when Per Mertesacker sat in the chairman’s seat during their defeat at home to Crystal Palace.
German Mertesacker, now on the coaching staff at the Emirates, took the seat last month because so few suits turn up for Arsenal games these days.
There was a time when the Gunners were considered an institution — one of English football’s most respected clubs.
Sadly standards are slipping around the place.
NERES RESISTS PIER PRESSURE
APART from Ajax’s super-slick football, another impressive quality was David Neres’ temperament when Kieran Trippier smashed him into the air.
Neres was entitled to react when Tottenham’s frustrated full-back made their duel physical in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.
The Brazilian, 22, thought about it for a moment before letting the moment pass, leaving Trippier to work out why Spurs were still 1-0 down.
TRACTS OF MY TEARS
IPSWICH Town, relegated to League One, used to be proud of its heritage.
Now the Cobbold Stand entrance and club badges above it are left neglected — just like the club.
All it would take is a lick of paint or a bit of love. But years of decay under owner Marcus Evans means it has been overlooked.
Sadly for the Tractor Boys, that is a sign of the times.
BACK ON THE WAGN
DAVID WAGNER is on the verge of being appointed by German side Schalke but has been making eyes at Brighton.
The Seagulls are waiting to confirm safety before making a call on Chris Hughton’s future.
Wagner, who walked away from Huddersfield midway through their relegation scrap, is desperate to return to management.