The similarities are uncanny and both the player, Messi, and his manager, Maradona, deserve plaudits of the highest order. Not for looking like the finished article, but in the risk and reward from this game. Risk in playing so many attacking players, and sending out a warning. Reward in the soaring confidence it will have created.
Messi had a superb game, top level in every aspect, apart from failing to score. One of my fears was that a bad opening game could see the camp riven with arguments. But this was an impressive win, with Messi as band leader.
Maradona played 4-3-3, which allowed Messi greater freedom and caused confusion for Nigeria because they were unable to track him or man-mark him. From the managerial perspective, I take my hat off to Diego for having the courage to begin in such fashion.
With three up front — Messi, Carlos Tévez and Gonzalo Higuaín - and such an attacking player in Angel Di Maria on the left of midfield, Maradona has sent out a message. Let's see how many other managers have the courage to start with three up front?
Messi was difficult to mark, deliberately showing how dangerous he was from the start by taking on four defenders inside four minutes, cunningly dragging players who followed him out of position. And because Diego played only one defensive midfielder, Messi tracked back and defended, even showing his brilliance in tackling and winning the ball back.
The possession for Argentina's midfield was huge; very, very positive in principle for an opening game in a tournament like this, where you want momentum to build.
There will be tougher fixtures, of course, but Argentina can be much better than this because there are clearly things to build on. The passing and interplay in midfield and up front was a delight. And in the centre of it all, pulling the strings, the Jabulani glued to his left foot, Messi the wonderboy, still only 22.
He'll strain every sinew at this World Cup. And this was only a stretch. He plays so easily, just like Maradona. I saw Maradona in him in the way he suddenly sees spaces others cannot see, and as Diego did with an opportunity, he seizes it, goes at you, and you are a dead man.
There was one 50-yard run which ended in a corner, all left-sided, which was Diego in mirror-image. It won't have been lost on the old master, either.
Nigeria surprised me. They were naive; their formation played to Argentina's strengths. No answers, no clear plan. They were never in the game. Were they defending deep? Putting pressure on? It should have been a special game for them. I thought they would be more forward-thinking. It was like a warm-up game for Argentina, who finished like it was a training session. If I'm harsh, it was Argentina v Vincent Enyeama. If not for the Nigeria goalkeeper, Messi would have had a hat-trick.
Goals will come for Messi at this World Cup. It will happen. He has scored four hat-tricks and 47 goals for Barcelona this season, but is less prolific for Argentina. Yet he takes pressure unbelievably well. Messi played in a comfort blanket and had too much space. Other teams will try to counter-act that. We saw glimpses of his great vision, passing skills, his tricks and his close control.
No complaints. Messi was superb. Maradona even wore on a tie, and was very, very positive. The boss deserves a lot of credit. Now his wonderboy must lead the team upwards.
Lionel Messi: on the road 里奥·梅西： 下一站球王
C•Ronaldo: to be crowned C罗：君临天下待加冕