Sometimes, when tacking the swirling headwinds of transfer rumors, incendiary press conferences, and a thousand minor controversies that bubble to the surface of the football news cycle, you come across a story so delightfully off-brand you pray it’s for real.
This photo started making the rounds on Soccer Twitter yesterday:
The photo appears to depict Lionel Messi sitting beside Barcelona teammate Luis Suárez, with three women standing behind them. The photo shows Messi wearing… God, I don't even know if I can type this, my fingers are trembling.
Messi is wearing a Joy Division t-shirt.
The graphic shirt very strongly resembles the album cover for Unknown Pleasures, the 1979 debut album from the Salford-based post-punk band. That seminal LP set the tone for the band's goth-tinged punk sensibilities and helped make Ian Curtis one of the defining voices of the Manchester scene.
And apparently one of the greatest footballers to ever lace up a pair of Adidas boots is a BIG FAN.
Of course, we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. We don’t know whether the photo is even real, although for lack of contravening evidence we are making an executive decision to take it at face-value. (After the year we’ve all had, the world could use a bit of hope.) We don’t know when this was taken. We don’t know the context. For all we know, Messi just picked up the shirt because he really liked the graphic. There are many, many unanswered questions here.
But come on. Admit it. You want this to be true.
You’re beholden to this vision racing through your mind. A younger Messi coming home from training. Going straight to his room without talking to anyone. Changing out of his training kit and putting on a black turtleneck and some tattered jeans. Plugging his giant retro Marshall headphones into the turntable. Dropping the needle. Laying flat on his bed. Staring up at the ceiling. Wondering when was the last time he felt anything. Disgusted with the world and himself. Mired in a Cold War malaise. Lamenting the absence of literally anything original or genuine. Turning the volume knob up as the gloomy, rumbling bassline of “New Dawn Fades” crashes into his ears. Repeating the lyrics until the words lose all meaning. Semantic Satiation. (Hey, that’d be a great name for a band, he thinks to himself. He’d reach over to get his Moleskine journal but… ahh, what’s the point, anyway.)
In spite of— or, perhaps, because of— the Thatcherite ennui, Barcelona’s preseason continues as the squad prepares for their first friendly against Celtic next weekend in Dublin. Different colors, different shades.