Up-and-coming Chivas de Guadalajara star vs a FC Barcelona five-time Ballon d’Or phenom.

I know what you’re thinking – just hear me out.

The history of professional soccer spans over a century. We’ve witnessed infinite styles of play over the years at Chivas and Barça alone – both collective and individual – each of which feeds into our natural propensity to categorize, organizing and structuring in an effort to generate order in a chaotic and unpredictable world.

When it comes to collective style, it’s easy to catalog and classify forms of expression on the field. 11 players – two goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, forwards – all placed into particular systems of play on the pitch.

But when we refer to individual styles, variability increases tenfold. What differentiates Player A’s ability to dribble through opposition defenses from Player B’s movement off the ball? Player C’s ball control from Player D’s passing precision? While we do have broad categories to help us describe our favorite futbolistas – left- and right-footed, attacker, defender, fast, slow – there are also subtle qualities that are much more difficult to define.

Despite the difficulty in distinguishing disparate styles, scholars and theorists have generated a vast number of concepts to help us define players in physical, mental, technical, and tactical terms. It’s in this light that I wish to present you with my (objective) comparison between La Chofis and Messi, a comparison that should be pretty damn obvious to those of us up on the Mexican soccer scene.

Physical

Let’s start with the obvious physical similarities shared between the two:

    1. Both are left-footed.
    2. López measures 1.66 m (5’5”) and weighs 60 kg (132 lbs), while Lionel Messi measures 1.69 m (5’7”) and weighs 72 kg (158 lbs).

Although there is a significant jump in weight (most likely due to the fact that Leo is training at peak performance levels in Europe), similar short statures mean low centers of gravity, which in turn allow for greater efficiency when moving the ball at their feet and better low ball-striking abilities.

Technical

There’s no denying that Messi’s technique and natural talent is second to none. It’s what puts him above the rest. His ability to drive through defenders with the ball glued to his feet, his drastic and deadly changes of pace and direction, his defensive cover of the ball when driving from the flank towards the center of the pitch. It’s magic, there’s simply no other way to put it. In addition to these movements, it’s Messi’s high postural control that makes him so very difficult to catch off balance (peep these photos for evidence).

Relatively speaking, it can be argued that López’s movements are almost identical to the sequences that Messi strings together, barring two essential differences: speed and precision. La Chofis has the power to make darting hook runs into the center, fly through defenses at full speed with the ball at his feet, and even rip shots that make the ball look like melted butter on the spoon that is his foot. He can do it too.

It’s here that the essential mystery arises: how can López – seven years Messi’s junior, a player trained thousands of miles away from the Barça star – resemble the very best of the best?

In a previous article, we reviewed the similar styles of Héctor Herrera and Juan Román Riquelme. Herrera’s admiration for the Argentine star became a key element and main indicator in our efforts to explain their likeness. The Porto man confessed to trying to imitate some of his predecessor’s moves, after all.

But how does one imitate to such a successful extent? In the case of Herrera and Riquelme, the learning that led to similar styles was primarily visual beyond the most basic kinesthetics of fútbol. Here’s an explanation why: In the 1970s, John Grinder and Richard Bandler generated a model – V-A-K – to explain the ways human beings are capable of learning. The model was dependent on the type of information that their subjects were fed; while some found oral explanations useful and easier to understand, others found kinesthetic learning and whole-body movements to be much more valuable.

Herrera would have been one such person in the V-A-K model; take his incredible ability to mimic moves and add in visual components (he’s clearly adept at absorbing information and translating it into action), and you get a perfect imitation and replica of Riquelme. Stunning accuracy. López is well on his way to doing the same with Messi.

Until the Chivas prodigy confesses his admiration, we must accept these emerging patterns and take great enjoyment in watching a fledgling next generation with power and prowess, one that’s capable of producing big name stars and previously unthinkable magic. La Chofis is coming.