PRAY TO LIONEL

There is a Church of Maradona in Argentina with 120,000 members, but rumor has it that the Church of Leo Messi has opened its doors and its membership may soon reach into the millions. I’ve lost track of how many hat tricks, foot tricks, long-distance surface-to-air missiles, slaloms, chips, far-post benders, headers and assists Barcelona’s King of Football has given us. Pure joy.

There is hope that the hyper-fit, inverted pyramid, cynical and suffocating football so dominant in recent times will not completely silence the magical qualities of the beautiful game.

Yes, I have had a soft spot for Barca ever since my brother took me to see Sandro Ciotti’s Il Profeta del Gol — a film about Cruyff with jaw-dropping goals from his azulgrana days — but what Messi is giving us transcends football loyalties. Simply put, Messi is why I love football. Venite adoremus . . .