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Towards the end of his life Mozart wrote a piece of music called Ein musikalischer Spaß, or “a musical joke”, intended as a satire on bad composers. As you might expect it contained a hilarious discord in the horns section, some off-key sonata and – LOL – a polytonal finale. No doubt back in the 1780s this was all very weeping-laughing-emoji-face. Listening to it now, A Musical Joke just sounds predictably ace, brill, fun, Al Montoya Jersey yeah, really good. It turns up on the kind of CDs you buy at petrol stations called The Cream Of Mellow Classics Vol IV. It was the theme tune to the Horse of The Year Show. Even people who know what they’re talking about, whose store of Mozart knowledge isn’t drawn from that film where he was a shrieking little American sex maniac, call it a progressive, post-modern, experimental piece of music. It turns out even when he’s trying to be bad, Mozart is somehow still a bit more interesting than everyone else. It was tempting this week to apply the same kind of reasoning to Lionel Messi, who came up with something new and slightly startling in the draw with Juventus that ended Barcelona’s Champions League campaign. Weirdly, Messi had a bad game. Not just a quiet game: an actual bad one, like the bad games other, non genius-level footballers have. Messi still had seven shots at goal. He still did some wonderful things. But that usual hyper-awareness, the beautifully cruel clarity in every pass and every shift of feet was absent. He seemed to walk around a bit more than normal. He put a difficult volley with his weaker foot over the bar in a way that made it actually look like a difficult volley with his weaker foot. It was all a little disturbing, like seeing your favourite cat on drugs at the vet, Authentic Andrew MacDonald Youth Jersey legs wobbly, eyes drooping, the old gliding elegance weirdly askew. But then, it turns out even bad Messi is oddly unignorable, fascinatingly semi-good, a bit like Mozart’s grippingly dissonant parpings. Even when he’s bad, or not great or just average, it feels as though this ought to mean something. Predictably enough, there was a temptation afterwards to suggest that something significant had passed at the Camp Nou. Football likes this kind of narrative arc. Full stops are drawn. Things end. But what exactly? Clearly Messi isn’t finished. He is still brilliantly effective, scorer of 45 goals already this season. He may be 30 in June, but Messi’s passing is so good, his brain so sharp, it feels like even a dip or a lull is likely to be followed by other, deeper gears, some late blooming reinvention as Argentina’s deep-lying midfield creator at the Qatar World Cup when they are managed by a mad, frazzled, wild-eyed Pep Guardiola.

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