Lionel Messi Is “Cleaner Than Neutrogena” 

I am not a soccer expert.

I am not a soccer expert. I enjoyed watching some of my high school friends play the game, and as an athlete, could immediately appreciate the skill, thought-process and conditioning required to excel. But, on the strength, I grew up in Bed-Stuy and East New York in Brooklyn, where the only person I knew who played soccer was my man African George.

It wasn’t until my daughters started playing when they were very young that I began to understand how beautiful and thrilling the game truly is. 

Prior to that, if you asked me who my favorite “Lionel” was, I would have said Lionel “The L Train” Simmons, Lionel Jefferson, Lionel Richie and Lionel Hampton. As a matter of fact, I’d never met a white person named Lionel. I didn’t know they existed.

But in an effort to better communicate with my youngest child, who loves to play soccer in the same way that I approached basketball at her age, I made a conscious effort to find out about this Lionel Messi guy from Argentina. Really, it was simply to have some conversation starters, to open a door into her perplexing teenage mind.

Now, though I admittedly watch a bare minimum of the sport, I find myself checking for Messi’s highlights. Because the dude is, without a doubt, that dude!

And yesterday, he proved once again why he is considered among the greatest to ever play the game.

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Peep the technique!

One thing that I love about Messi is that he doesn’t just live up to all the hype. He often surpasses it. Despite my limited knowledge of the game, I know greatness when I see it.  

His game-opening goal had the announcer screaming that he was, “cleaner than Neutrogena!” after an 18-touch buildup involving eight different players. His game winner was his 500th goal for Barcelona and his 47th of the season. It also marked the sixth time in his career that he passed the 30-goal mark in La Liga.

It capped a performance that was reminiscent of what we’ve seen from players like MJ, Kobe and LeBron in that he took the game over in a way that very few have ever been capable of.

I know I’ve got a long way to go in terms of my soccer education.

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But when my daughter gets home from school adorned in her soccer shorts and sweats later today, I look forward to seeing the look on her face and her smile when I say, “Did you saw what Messi did yesterday? He’s almost as good as LeBron!”


Alejandro “Ali” Danois is the Editor-in-Chief of The Shadow League. His features “Humble Beginnings”, and “Rocky Flop” were mentioned in the Best American Sports Writing Anthology as among the country’s most notable stories of 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Ali is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, and he served as a Producer on the ESPN Films 30-for-30 documentary “Baltimore Boys”.

Follow him on twitter @alidanois