There is a line in a popular 1980 Tamil song ‘Madai Thirandhu’ from the movie Nizhalgal. Sung by the immortal voice of SP Balasubrahmanyam and set to tune by the maestro Ilaiyaraaja, the line goes: Pudhu raagam padaipathaale naanum iraivane. One of the protagonists, an aspiring musician, gets a big break and this line translates to: because I create new music, I too am a god.

If one believes in creationism, it is easy to see why the aspect of creating something new out of nothing is considered divine. And why a legion of Lionel Messi’s followers call him D10S. (Dios is Spanish for god, and 10 instead of i-o, of course). When he doesn’t conjure magical goals, the Argentine superstar is busy creating.

We have seen two such moments in this World Cup as Messi-inspired Argentina have reached the final... the glittering trophy is one win away, as La Albiceleste defeated Croatia 3-0 on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi has now scored and/or assisted in all but one of Argentina’s six matches at the tournament so far. With five goals, he is well and truly in contention for the Golden Boot. But let’s focus on two assists he has provided in this tournament so far, that need to be preserved for football fans to revisit decades from now... as proof that he can, indeed, create.

Assist 1: vs Netherlands

The moment Messi received the ball from eventual goalscorer Nahuel Molina, the digital ad-board flashed Adidas’ message: impossible is nothing. And so Messi got the ball at his feet, he dropped his shoulder to beat a midfielder, who didn’t know which way to go. Then he ran at a defender, who was desperately trying to keep up with Messi and was eventually fooled by another direction change that never happened. Those two dummies that Messi sold in a few microseconds were so minute in nature, that us – as viewers – needed slow-motion replays to understand what happened.

But that was not all. Messi was heading diagonally towards us on the screen, his eyes were in the direction pointing towards the near side, while Molina started making his run at the far side towards goal. Until Messi made that pass without looking where his teammate was, just knowing, we didn’t know what was coming. He found the angle, the perfect disguise. Now, you see it too. “Aha!” There was still work to be done and Molina did it with a fine finish.


Assist 2: vs Croatia

Josko Gvardiol was, or perhaps still is, arguably the best defender of this tournament. At 20, he is certainly one of the breakthrough young players of the tournament and will perhaps find suitors from Europe’s elite in no time.

But on Tuesday night at the Lusail Stadium, he was given a few moments in the spotlight against the game’s elite that he’d rather forget... or perhaps, remember and learn from. He was dragged out to wide left on the field, trying to stay within touching distance of Messi. When Messi received the ball near the touchline, there was no real threat to the Croatian defence. It’s just too far away from goal, and there is not much wiggle room. But Gvardiol was in for a surprise. A vintage Messi run.

The No 10 received the ball and turned on the nitro boost for just a brief while. At 35, the speed in his legs might not be the same anymore but its not-so-distant physics relative acceleration is still a friend. And so he zoomed ahead into space ahead of the 20-year-old No 20 of Croatia. When the youngster caught up, the wily old veteran changed direction, threatening to go away from goal.

Nah, just kidding. He turned back, and ran towards the byline and after the left foot did all the hard work, the right foot cut the ball back with precision to apply the finishing touch.

Try counting how many different touches of the ball Messi made during this run... it is near impossible to ascertain an exact number with our naked eyes (the sensor-fitted ball could, that lucky little thing which had the fortune of being blessed by these moments). When he dribbles like this, because that touch is so impeccable, it’s like the ball is just an extension of his boot.


And so he created once again... a chance from seemingly out of nowhere, putting the ball at the perfect place for Julian Alvarez this time to send the ball home.

A good magic trick, as the lines go in The Prestige, consists of three parts. The second part is the turn, where, “the magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret... but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled.”

The third act, in both these occasions, came from Messi’s teammates. The finishing flourish. But the set-up came from the Magic Man. He’s playmaker Lionel Messi, we’re pleased to see him assist... his teammates to score and us to feel joy.