Keep your Lionel Messi, cos we’ve got our Nanetti!

ROOKS fans used to have a chant about their manager, Steve King, just around the time the Lewes boss was leading his team to the Blue Square South championship. It went thus: “Who needs Mourinho? We’ve got Steve Kingho!”

A variation on the theme may soon be heard bellowed from the Dripping Pan rafters if King’s assessment of his newest star is anything to go by.

How about “You can keep your Lionel Messi, cause we’ve got our Nanetti!”?

King laughed as he compared his exciting young wing man to the greatest footballing talent on the planet. And possibly the greatest footballer ever to have graced the planet at that, writes Brian Pollard.

It’s quite a comparison to make for a 19-year-old making his first start for the Rooks, following his arrival from Harrow Borough recently.

FC Barcelona, after all, never felt the need to blood their Argentinian genius in the bearpit of Isthmian League football on their mutual journey towards Champions League glory.

King chuckled as he made the comment, knowing full well that these things can so often be taken wildly taken out of context:

Ryman League boss unearths the next FIFA World Player of the Year.

Or... [So and so] is the next George Best/Ian Botham/Gus Caesar.

You know, that kind of thing.

The Rooks boss wasn’t actually saying that Christian Nanetti – man of the match for Lewes in their 4-1 victory over Aveley on Saturday – was as good a player as Lionel Messi (at least, I don’t think he was; King does have an eye for a good player!) but more that there was something about Messi in the way this small, speedy and skilful winger moves, plays and approaches the game.

The way he runs at players – on either side – with genuine and torturous pace (torturous if you’re the man charged with stopping him).

The way he stays on his feet under challenge when players twice his size would have gone down.

And the way the wee fella tracks back and tries to win back the ball – in other to have another go at those beleaguered defenders.

So, you can see what King means. The boy’s a natural-born footballing entertainer. And it doesn’t matter at what level these players come, they’re what we come to watch football for. And thanks to one of club sponsors Brighton Holiday Homes, kids get to come and watch him for free at the Pan this season.

King needed only one view of the boy Nanetti playing for Harrow before making up his mind he wanted him in his Lewes team.

“I just knew that he was the kind of player that was made for my kind of team,” said the Rooks boss.

“He’s like Lionel Messi, isn’t he? Ha ha! He’s got that same stature; the way he plays, he cuts in, and (goes out) on the left, it doesn’t matter, he can dink either way.

“And even when you think he’s lost it (the ball) he gets his leg back round it, and even when he lost it in there (the middle of the park) he had another bite at it (trying to win the ball back), and another bite at it... and another bite at it!

“And he might get shoved off the ball he never gives up.

“He was like a little rat, wasn’t he!”

Being compared to a rodent, even in a good way, is a lot less flattering than being compared to the world’s greatest footballer, but it’s also probably a lot less onerous to live up to.

Here’s just hoping Nanetti thrills the crowds as much as Messi for the rest of the season, and gets the chance to gnaw away at plently more Ryman League defences.

Yep, you can keep your Lionel Messi. And kids don’t go free at the Camp Nou, anyway. Not unless they’re sponsored by Catalonia Holiday Homes, that is...

LEWES turned on the style on Saturday to blow away their opponents Aveley at the Dripping Pan.

Superb goals from Paul Booth, Nic Ciardini, Christian Nanetti and Michael Malcolm were fitting reward for an outstanding display of both individual and collective excellence.

A number of personal performances stood out on a joyous day for Rooks followers, but none more so than the man who still looks like a boy but played like a colossus, Christian Nanetti.