Look what you all did. Look at what you have done to one of the best players to ever grace a soccer field. You have broken him.
When I first saw Lionel Messi with platinum blond hair, I was sure that it was a joke. A gross monster created in Photoshop by someone with a distaste for the man and human decency. The Dr. Frankenstein of soccer jokes. Only a godless man would disfigure Messi like this, and turn him into an affront to every virtue known to man. Something you would find in the darkest parts of Facebook. A meme that should have came with an unsourced quote about Messi’s evil twin brother who DJs in exotic Jersey Shore clubs.
The only players who bleach their hair like that are bench players at Manchester City, who sit in their living rooms alone as the world forgets them (I know it was silver but I refuse to forgive Samir Nasri). Them and Arsenal midfielders who use the brightness of their hair to distract from their total lack of personality. Name Aaron Ramsey’s best personality trait. All you could think of was that he’s "nice," right? Exactly.
It couldn’t possibly be, I said to myself as I searched for more pictures of this new Messi. I was nervous. Fearful, even.
My fears were confirmed when I saw the official SportsCenter Twitter account tweet an image of it.
Look at this fucking guy.
It’s like Frodo becoming the lead singer of a boy band that does a scatting song on the 1999 Tarzan soundtrack after leaving The Shire. Justin Timberlake didn’t dance in the rain with Timbaland humming like a Tibetan monk for this to happen.
When he first got the tattoos, I was concerned. Messi has always been reserved throughout his career, his only sin was the floppy mullet that he wore in his early years. But we could forgive that. It was cute and it flowed in the wind oh-so-majestically as he turned Getafe defenders to eternal punchlines. Plus, it added to his Diego Maradona likeness. His whole image has always been of a boring, normal person. So, while tattoos are not as taboo as they once were, for someone who has been basic his entire life, it raised eyebrows.
His first tattoo was of his mother on his back shoulder. Nothing wrong with that, some people love their mothers. It was also hidden so you can tell that he still had reservations about his look.
Then he went and got his left foot tattooed. He desecrated a holy artifact. That left foot has done more for world football than the whole of England’s national team, and this bearer of the one-ring went and got a very ugly tattoo, of a sword enveloped in wings, with a soccer ball on one side and the No. 10 on the other. It was seeing an amateur graffiti artist tag his stupid nickname on Christ’s burial cave. If it had been up to me (and it should have been) I would have summoned that tattoo artist to the highest court in the land and had him tried as the unapologetic hooligan that he is.
Next, he had a son named Thiago and tattooed the boy’s handprints and his name on the back of that same leg. It’s an awful tattoo and no amount of paternal love can change that.
Then, he got the full sleeve on his right arm. It’s actually very cool, I can’t even lie. He has a tattoo of Jesus Christ that looks more like a confused reggae artist on his triceps but the rest of it is pretty nice. The lotus, the rose window of Sagrada Familia, is well done and gave some edge to Messi, who had "drinking a Pepsi when told not to" as the baddest thing he had done up to that point. This Messi looked like he would come to your city and sweep you off your feet with his nihilism and disregard for consequences before disappearing forever, leaving you to pine for what could have been.
I wasn’t against any of this. I was shocked that he was going through this experimental stage in his late 20s but considering that he had lived in a soccer bubble his entire life, I understood it. He was discovering himself away from the sport. As someone who cared for him, I could only support him.
Even if that handprint tattoo was a terrible idea, there was still hope for him. He could have been saved. Then the bastard went and grew out that disgusting beard.
First of all, Messi is an ugly person. That’s OK, we can admit that. He looks like he jumps out from under bridges when you desperately need to cross, declaring that he will only allow you passage if you solve his riddle. Or that he will return your first-born child if you say his true name.
Messi with a beard is ten times uglier. He looks like a real life garden gnome. Like a Snow White elf named "Poor." It was his first cry for help.
This platinum blond hair is the bellowing of a tortured soul. This is what happens to a person who watches Gonzalo Higuain cost him three finals. This is true sadness. The physical manifestation of the sorrow that forces a player to retire from his national team during his prime. If any hairstyle in the world could represent the words "I tried everything possible. It hurts me more than anyone, but it is evident that this is not for me ...," it’s whatever is on Messi’s head right now.
His new look, with the beard and blond hair, is Harvey Dent turning over in the hospital bed to show his disfigured face and shattered psyche after the Joker broke him.
I blame all of you for it. When he needed people to guide him, you guys piled on more pressure. When he cried out to the world for a friendly shoulder, you guys gave him the cold one. And now look at him. Platinum blond hair and a beard that forest creatures could hide in. You’ve done what generations of defenders could never do. You’ve torn down Messi and reduced him to a poor man’s Justin Bieber.