Because less players equal more space to pass and move

Wayne vs Lionel

It’s not hard to imagine Wayne Rooney sat on his luxurious leather couch this morning, fingers aggressively pressed into the buttons on his Sky remote, eyes glaring with a cocktail of rage and bewilderment at the latest sports update on Spanish football.

Even from this most ardent of Rooney critics it is clear that the Scouse wrecking ball is having the season of his life. With 32 goals at time of going to press and a guaranteed English Player of the Year award banked by mid-March, he may yet still end the season draped in medals and personal accolades as his United team saunter towards potential immortality.

For all his achievements however there is still one thing casting a dark shadow over Rooney and the English press that has championed his cause tirelessly these last six months. That one thing may have the body of a boy but also contains the gift of a god, and a second consecutive league hat trick has once again reinforced Lionel Andreś Messi’s as-yet-unassailable position atop world football.

Messi kisses the Ballon d'Or in 2009

Rooney is having an extraordinary season. That is undisputed. What is also unavoidable however is that Messi is having a career that has seen him arguably join the illustrious level reserved for sporting icons such as Pelé, Maradona and Cruyff, despite his relevant youth.

In March alone, for everything Rooney has achieved, Lil’ Leo has more than matched, indeed exceeded, in spite of the high standards the Englishman has set. An inspired hat-trick against a rejuvenated Valencia still containing important elements of Spain’s Euro 2008 winning squad; a deadly double against Stuttgart in the later rounds of the Champions League and another La Liga treble including one of the greatest goals in the history of the game has dramatically underlined his premier, stand-alone status.

Messi’s had a decent few seasons to say the least, culminating in achieving the ‘treble’ with Barcá last season and with it both the FIFA World Player of the Year and prestigious Ballon d’Or awards in a period of his career in which he is traditionally still meant to be on a learning curve. Most correspondents, including perhaps most tellingly of all a vast majority of recently polled Real Madrid fans, agree we are in the midst of a talent that has already exceed all, and I stress all, that has come before him. A sobering thought when his peak is still projected to be five or six years away.

That Rooney is doing well is true. That Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational repertoire of goals and assists currently sees him as the most expensive player in history is also true. There is however one, and only one, king of this round-balled game and his throne is deep in the heart of Catalunya.