The balls-up over Lionel Messi's 'goal' at Valencia on Sunday has sparked a storm in which the reaction of Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde has caught the eye chiefly because he was so philosophical about it. Valverde was quick to remember that, against Málaga last month, Los Azulgranas had benefitted from a ball that crossed the byline before being played back into the box for a goal to be scored. But his level-headed response can take nothing away from a debacle that is a bit of a collective failure. While we finally make our minds up over the video assistant referee (VAR) system, we've utterly disregarded Hawk-Eye (that is, goalline technology), which has already been implemented in Spanish stadiums in Champions League and Europa League games. And which is very simple to use.
It's unfortunate it had to be Messi who scored the 'goal'
We don't have it in our domestic game because LaLiga president Javier Tebas has baulked at the four million euros it costs for "one or two incidents a year", and because he's confident that VAR will also be able to resolve such cases. But, life being as it is, while we wait for VAR to arrive, we've found ourselves with a 'ghost goal' that reflects badly on our league. And the chief misfortune is that Messi was at the centre of it, in the process ensuring it hit global headlines. It's unfortunate it happened, unfortunate it was Messi, unfortunate the officials didn't see it. But, as Napoleon was known to say, good luck is about being ready and waiting for every eventuality. In this instance, being ready and waiting with technology is what was lacking. A black mark on our otherwise fantastic top flight.
Refs definitely need goalline technology; as for VAR...
It's a nightmare for the referee, who was in line with Neto and the flight of the ball, and couldn't see it. And for his assistant, who was level with the edge of the area and was perhaps unsighted. But they must have realised from the reaction of the players that they were the only two people on this earth who hadn't seen the ball over the line. A 'ground, swallow me up' moment. They, more than anyone, deserve goalline technology; I'm not so convinced by VAR, though: it will be able to resolve certain types of incidents (albeit without the same degree of certainty in cases such as Sunday's), but still won't necessarily sort out all those in-game moments that are open to interpretation - which, let's face it, are the bulk of those that lead to controversy. And we're finding out that, in the leagues where it's now used, it's not so much quelling the debates as fuelling them.