Lionel Messi – a surprise outsider?

by Nick Higgins

http://ngerumpi.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/lionelmessi.jpgHaving not necessarily shown his best form for Argentina in the past and having had a long and testing season with Barcelona, I was originally skeptical about Lionel Messi’s chances of challenging for the Golden Boot at this summer’s World Cup. However, upon seeing the 22 year old’s display against Nigeria on Saturday afternoon, I have changed my mind. It appears there is some extremely good value in this bet which in my opinion simply cannot be missed.

Whilst he did not score, Messi looked extremely lively and could have netted a hat-trick if it were not for a number of extraordinary saves from Nigeria’s Vincent Enyeama who thoroughly deserved his man of the match award.

Although the early signs are that the World Footballer of the Year could take this World Cup by storm, Argentina looked out of shape at the back and should really have been punished for some sloppy defending. Playing Jonas Gutierrez at right back was a strange decision by Argentina coach Diego Maradona. The Newcastle United winger looked very uncomfortable throughout. Against better opposition Argentina could have conceded two or three goals.

For Messi to win the golden boot, Argentina need to improve their defending and progress to the latter stages of the competition, otherwise there is the risk that Messi will not have enough games to score the goals required. However, judging from his fine attempts on goal against Nigeria, and the form we have seen him produce for Barcelona in recent seasons, he could easily stake a claim for the golden boot within two or three matches.

‘The greatest footballer on the planet’

Messi will have taken encouragement from a shambolic defensive display by Greece who were lucky to only concede two against South Korea on Saturday lunchtime. And he will certainly be looking to fill his boots against Greece a week on Tuesday.

The good news is that the odds of Messi winning the golden boot have not changed since the beginning of the tournament and so early skeptics (myself included) have not missed out on any value. He is priced at 12/1. This is outstanding value and is surely worth a cheeky fiver.

At the end of the day Lionel Messi is the greatest footballer on the planet, who has just had the greatest season of his life, and looks to be playing in his favoured, free-roaming role in an Argentina side where he is surrounded by world class players. Despite the defensive worries which may see them take a slightly early exit from the competition, odds of 12/1 for a man who scored 30 goals in 35 starts this domestic season, and four against a none-to-shabby Arsenal side just nine weeks ago should be snapped up without a second thought (or a third thought if you count my omission of him in my overall World Cup markets post).

I am not saying it is definitely going to happen. But I am saying that you will kick yourself for not backing him if he suddenly repeats his four goal masterclass and sets this World Cup alight.

One more thing, if you have been inspired to back the humble little man to win the golden boot, do not waste any time in getting your money on. Good value like this does not usually last long.

Best of luck!

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