An MLS coach in the US has said the Argentina superstar should get extra protection from referees same way Michael Jordan did, when he joins Inter Miami.
In order to protect the massive financial investment the league has undertaken to bring the recently crowned World Cup-winning captain, some expect the governing body for referees in the US, the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), to have different expectations for matches involving Messi.
One unnamed MLS coach told The Athletic that the Argentine should ‘get the (Michael) Jordan treatment. (He) should get every single call.’
But any ‘Jordan treatment’ could lead to MLS teams implementing their own version of the ‘Jordan rules’.
The Jordan Rules were a successful defensive basketball strategy employed by the Detroit Pistons against the six-time NBA title winner in order to limit his effectiveness in any game. Devised by Chuck Daly and his assistants at the time, Ron Rothstein and Dick Versace, after Jordan scored 59 points against them in April 1988, the Pistons’ strategy was “to play him tough, to physically challenge him and to vary its defenses so as to try to throw him off balance.” Sometimes the Pistons would overplay Jordan to keep the ball from him.
Additionally, whoever Jordan was guarding on defense, Detroit would force that player to pass the basketball in order to make Jordan work extremely hard on both ends of the court, thus increasing his fatigue level and rendering him less effective.
Such an example has been set before in MLS when superstars arrived, as The Athletic points out.
When David Beckham arrived in the league in 2007, there were a number of players looking to make a point.
One of those was FC Dallas defender Adrian Serioux, who put a bone-crunching tackle on Beckham back in 2008 that resulted in a straight red.
‘We’ve dedicated our lives to the game and will have nothing to retire on,’ Serioux told the British press the next day. ‘He’s great for MLS, but me and a few others are going after him. He’s made us feel unappreciated … If he’s on the ball, he’s there to be hit hard.’
With the arrival of Messi referees acknowledge that extra care needs to be undertaken.
‘This is not the level of David Beckham or Zlatan. This is a different level,’ says Robert Sibiga, the 2021 PRO Referee of the Year.
‘I really hope that they’re going to be able to adjust the expectations. As referees, the last thing you want to be is to be seen screwing up the game or allowing players who have way less talent and experience to do something to a player like Lionel Messi.’
He continued, saying, ‘PRO will have to be very particular about who they’re going to bring. It has to be veterans. It has to be experienced referees.’
‘If we don’t, then we’re going to miss the mark and we’re going to do a disservice to the game.’