Nearly two years after retirement, Paul Scholes still has nightmares about Lionel Messi

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First things first, Paul Scholes is a really engaging, interesting columnist. For those unaware, the Manchester United legend has been writing columns for the Independent newspaper for a while now.

Scholes’s no-nonsense, all-business personality lends itself perfectly to sharing thoughts on the game from the viewpoint of a world-class player. He’s not too brash, though, to the point where he seems to be implying, “I know everything and you know nothing,” like, say, his former Man United teammate Roy Keane might do.

Anyway, Scholes’s latest column went up Thursday evening and the main topic is, simply, the genius of Lionel Messi.

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In the piece, Scholes recounts his four career meetings with the Argentine superstar (career record of 1-1-2, with the win and draw coming in a two-leg Champions League tie in 2008) and, more interestingly, the fear and pressure Messi put into him.

Scholes, on Messi, in his latest column:

I am not ashamed to admit that in the games against Barcelona I spent a lot of the time just hoping he would take up positions as far away from me as possible.

Elusive is the word that immediately springs to mind when I think about Messi’s style of play. You think you have an eye on him and then – blink – he has gone, only to reappear somewhere else in space, with the ball. When you try to face up to him and make a tackle you know what it is he is going to do with the ball. The problem is staying with him.

It’s one thing for fans or journalists to say, “That Messi is really good. He’d frighten me if I were tasked with marking him.” It’s a whole other level of compliment for one of the previous decade’s very best midfielders to admit he hoped he’d just stay away from him altogether.

As for Messi, the man, Scholes feels like he’s his kinda guy:

Messi is as famous as any footballer has ever been and yet, when it comes down to it, we don’t know much about him. I read that he is a family man, and likes to walk his dogs, but beyond that he’s a mystery really. I like that. Especially these days, when people’s feelings about every issue are there to be read on Twitter or wherever. Keep something of yourself back. It is a strength.

As someone who most enjoys watching the central midfield position, Scholes was undoubtedly a genius in his own right. I already knew that Messi was a once-in-a-lifetime talent and I’m lucky to live in an age where I can watch every minute of his career, but on Scholes’s recommendation I’ll appreciate him just a little bit more from now on.