Bless little Leo Messi. Look at him as he tries to headbutt Roma’s Mapou Yanga-Mbwia. Aww. He’s so small he can’t even reach the defender’s chin! So cute!
It’s less a violent assault than the kind of nuzzling newborns do when they’re sleeping on their mom.
And there’s a throat-grab! Or is it a throat-stroke? Does Messi want to strangle his opponent, or give him a hickey?
Finally, the classic shove. Except that Leo’s so lightweight, he falls back.
He was only yellow-carded, because it’s preseason. And because for a referee to feel confident about weathering the storm that would inevitably follow if he sent off the world’s best player, Messi would have to commit a foul using a rifle, or at least a Taser.
It didn’t seem like Yanga-Mbwia did anything that doesn’t happen to Messi a thousand times during the course of a season, but we need to see the incident in the context of his gradual but uneasy transformation from family-friendly magician to gangsta badass.
There’s the tattoos, which don’t make him look tough. They look like the kind of temporary tats you might find in a Claire’s store in a suburban mall.
The tantrums and tension as part of a Nou Camp power struggle worthy of the Corleones.
And now a freakout that makes him look like the Joe Pesci of the pitch.
It’s only a matter of time before he takes over a nightclub, cruises round Catalonia’s projects in an SUV with blacked-out windows and spiked alloy wheels and starts a protection racket in the Barcelona locker-room.