Barcelonas hero in Sunday nights win over Atletico Madrid was, clearly, Lionel Messi, because the skipper struck a usually fantastic late purpose to safe the factors (Messi is additionally, equally clearly, the perfect participant on the earth. Congratulations to the Ballon dOr awards for stating the bleeding apparent).
And the opposite hero for the Blaugrana this weekend was Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who received his private duel with Jan Oblak by making a few magnificent first-half saves from Mario Hermoso and Alvaro Morata to maintain his crew on degree phrases.
Messi and ter Stegen. Sure, they have been marvellous.
But so, too, was one other participant, one who rarely appears to draw a lot consideration or earn a lot reward, and belongs firmly within the unsung hero class: Sergi Roberto.
At instances, its tempting to marvel how Sergi Roberto has managed to maintain a spot in and across the Barca beginning eleven for therefore lengthy, as a result of he usually seems nicely under the required degree to star for the Camp Nou membership. His contact is common, his passing no higher than enough, hes not fast or notably robust, hes mediocre within the air and he doesnt rating many targets.
But all these relative deficiencies are compensated by one essential ingredient, which he possesses in larger abundance than maybe any of his teammates: sport intelligence. The 27 yr-outdated (sure, he actually is that outdated) simply *will get it*, permitting him to play a number of positions with the minimal of fuss and all the time present a optimistic, if unflashy, contribution.
A pleasant illustration of that potential got here with Messis winner on Sunday evening, when Sergi Roberto gave an ideal instance of play a key position within the scoring of a purpose with out even touching the ball.
Watch the purpose intently, maybe pausing the motion a few instances to see precisely the way it unfolds, and you will note that when Messi receives possession, round ten yards inside Atleticos half, Sergi Roberto is sprinting ahead in help, nearly alongside him.
The plain factor for a full-again to do in that state of affairs was run in direction of the correct wing, occurring the overlap to stretch the pitch and give Messi a large passing choice. But that may have been perfect for the Atletico defence, who might have merely left him alone and been completely content material to see Messi launch the ball with a go to the wing quite than persevering with his route in direction of purpose.
Realizing this, Sergi Roberto as a substitute made a far much less apparent run, charging by the within proper channel in direction of the sting of the realm. Now the house crew defence needed to react, in any other case Messi might have merely slid a comparatively easy ball into his teammates path for a transparent shot on purpose. So Mario Hermoso, only for a few paces, stepped backwards and to his left, following Sergi Robertos run to shut him down.
This was precisely what Messi hoped for, and he immediately took benefit of the house created by Hermosos motion by taking the ball the opposite method and taking part in a wall go with Luis Suarez. Hermoso tries to react but its too late: he cant get to Suarez rapidly sufficient to make forestall the one-two, and cant get to Messi rapidly sufficient to dam the shot. 1-0, sport over.
In fact, there have been different components to the purpose: Messis management as he lower inside needed to be good, as did Suarezs return go, as did Messis end, and you would argue that Felipe ought to have carried out extra to dam the shot. But with out the clever run from Sergi Roberto, Hermoso would have been in a a lot better place and the purpose won’t have been scored.
And that is what this most understated of Barca superstars presents. His work isnt all the time seen, but it is typically extremely efficient – though it needs to be famous that on Sunday evening he did additionally produce a really apparent key second in defence, once more displaying nice consciousness by clearing a cross-shot from contained in the six-yard field to disclaim Vitolo a easy faucet-in.
Though Sergi Robertos skills are not all the time appreciated by followers and pundits – not many individuals would place him of their perfect Barca XI – his teammates and coaches definitely regard him extremely.
Thats why he has overcome his apparent limitations to stay a daily within the crew for the final 5 seasons, racking up 261 appearances within the course of. Thats why Ernesto Valverde is eager to play him extra repeatedly in midfield, to provide a way of order and management to his groups strategy play. And thats why, maybe, Sergi Roberto is at the moment the largest unsung hero in soccer.
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