Over 550 goals for Barcelona, 65 for Argentina, four champions league wins and five ballon d'Ors - it's incredibly difficult for anyone to argue against Lionel Messi being, if not the greatest, at least one of the greatest players of all time. Messi achieved these accolades by continuously performing to a ridiculously high standard.
Just when defenders think they have the answer, Messi changes the question whether it's his dazzling dribbling, his frazzling free kicks or just his fantastic finishing - Barcelona fans have been blessed by witnessing the best of Messi live in person. This upcoming season will mark Messi's 15th season in a Barcelona shirt, therefore we'll be focusing on his greatest performances during his tenure at the club and attempt to narrow them down to five. Let's take a look at his finest performances.
#5 - Vs Bayer Leverkusen (2012) - Messi makes history
Leverkusen came into the game needing to overturn a 2-goal deficit from their first leg loss but they started poorly with Barcelona peppering their goal throughout. Goalkeeper Bernd Leno made two great saves to deny Messi and Gerald Piqué and looked almost unbeatable until Messi was put through after an exquisite pass from Xavi and chipped the German keeper in style. Messi then picked up the ball on the right-hand side danced in-and-around three defenders before burying the ball into the bottom corner to double Barça's lead.
Remember the chip I mentioned earlier? The Argentine replicated his first goal this time being put through by Fabregas under pressure from the defender and Messi executed an inch-perfect chip with his "weak foot" to leave Leno stranded to give himself a hat-trick. Christian Tello then added a fourth before Messi was gifted his fourth. A double one-two with Pedro was fantastically defender by Leverkusen as the Argentine looked to burst through. However, Leno couldn't grasp the ball following Daniel Schwaabs challenge and Messi slotted home to make it 5-0.
Tello then added his second to make it 6-0 following another mistake from Leno before Messi picked up the ball on the edge of the area and curled it past the German shot-stopper to make Champions League history and is still the only player to score five goals in a Champions League knockout game.
Substitute Karim Bellarabi scored a fantastic consolation goal to make it 7-1 but Barcelona ultimately ran out 10-2 winners on aggregate.
#4 - Vs Bayern Munich (2015) - Revenge for 2013.
The last time these two teams played in knockout football the German side ran out comprehensive winners defeating Barcelona 4-0 at the Allianz Arena and 0-3 at the Camp Nou.
Bayern started the game exactly as they did in 2013, aggressive and on the attack. However, the counter-attacking capability of the Spanish side meant that they looked like scoring first as Luis Suarez and Neymar both squandered golden opportunities early on. Then it was Bayern's turn to rue missed chances as the masked Robert Lewandowski couldn't capitalise from Thomas Muller's cross.
Manuel Neuer was in inspired form and didn't look like he could be beaten as he made countless saves from the likes of Messi, Neymar and Dani Alves until Alves picked up the ball on the right hand side passed it into the Argentine who placed the ball beating Neuer at his near post from 25-yards. Then Messi picked up the ball on the right hand side took a deft touch to leave Jerome Boateng spinning and flailing like a botching ballerina before chipping the ball over Manuel Neuer and doubling the lead of the Spanish side. Messi then played through Neymar in the last minute of the game who had the easiest chance of all to slot home and make it 3-0 to Barcelona.
Bayern would go on to win the second leg 3-2 at the Allianz but Barcelona would go on to win the Champions League with a 3-1 win over Juventus in Berlin.
#3 Vs Real Madrid (2007) - Putting Messi on the map
In the lead-up to this match, Barcelona were six points ahead of their rivals in the title race. However, Madrid knew that as they beat Barcelona earlier in the season, they had the head-to-head advantage and a draw or a win today would be worth an extra point to them come the end of the season.
Madrid started strongly and were rewarded when Gonzalo Higuain's cross was deflected into the path of Ruud Van Nistelrooy who curled home from outside the box to give Madrid the advantage. Frank Rijkaard's men then pushed for an equaliser as Samuel Eto'o had his effort well saved by Iker Casillas. The Cameroonian then played through Messi who had found himself in space and slotted the ball past Casillas to level the game.
Madrid were then rewarded a penalty when Guti was fouled by Oleguer and Van Nistelrooy stepped up to slot the ball past Valdes and restore Madrid's advantage. Barcelona had their best chance to equalise when Messi took the ball beyond three players, slotted it to Ronaldinho who found Eto'o but the strikers tame shot was a real let-down to the build up.
Messi then grabbed his brace when Eto'o and Ronaldinho combined again with a lovely one-two for the Brazilian's volley to be well-saved and fall to the feet of Messi who blasted a half-volley into the roof of the net. Then came Messi's first chance for a hat-trick when he once again lost his marker following a pass from Andres Iniesta. However, the Argentine could only find the side netting from close range.
Barcelona then began to dominate the game, Messi showed some wonderful trickery to play through Ronaldinho and then found himself free in the box but the Brazilian's attempted cross to Eto'o was blocked fantastically by Michel Salgado. Barca's dominance was short-lived however, as Oleguer picked up his second yellow of the game and was sent off on the brink of half-time.
Madrid then took the lead when Guti's free-kick was met by Sergio Ramos whose backwards header cannoned off the bar and into the back of the net. It looked like Madrid were going to win the game but in stoppage time, Messi latched onto a Ronaldinho pass on the edge of the box, weaved his way past three diving challenges and placed the ball into the far corner for his first El Classico hat-trick in dramatic fashion at just 19-years-old.
#2 - Vs Manchester United (2011) - Messi wins his third Champions League.
Barcelona came into this game as firm favourites and gave Sir Alex Ferguson's side "a hiding nobody had ever given them before" according to the Scottish legend.
The Spanish side grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck with both Pedro and David Villa coming close. It looked almost certain that Messi would open the scoring when his run from deep tricked both Ji-Sung Park and Patrice Evra but a fantastic last-ditch tackle from Nemanja Vidić denied the Argentine his first chance of the game. The first goal of the game came when Xavi's pass found Pedro on the left hand side who slotted the ball home to give Barca a deserved lead.
Manchester United then found their rhythm and instantly replied when Wayne Rooney's delightful one-two with Javier Hernandez found him in space on the centre spot and the Englishman buried the ball into the top left corner to equalise.
Barcelona then looked more likely of the sides to score as Villa and Xavi both squandered difficult chances after good work from Messi. Messi then dribbled through from the halfway line putting through Villa who attempted to play the ball back to Messi but his scuffed pass narrowly missed the Argentine.
Messi however, wouldn't be denied and gave Barcelona the lead when he picked the ball up 35-yards out, drove forward and powered a low drive past Edwin Van Der Sar. It wasn't the most accurate strike of Messi's career but the sheer power of the drive was enough to beat the legendary goalkeeper. The Dutchman was hard-worked throughout the second half being forced into multiple saves from Messi and Xavi.
Barcas third came from the little man again, his dazzling run beat three but was eventually cut out; the ball fell to Xavi who teed up Villa who stopped the ball dead and curled it into the top right corner to give Barcelona another Champions League triumph.
#1 - Vs Arsenal (2010) - The four-goal massacre
After a 2-2 draw at the Emirates in the first leg, Messi's Barcelona were the favourites going into their quarter-final second leg against Arsenal. However, it didn't all go according to plan for Guardiola's men despite them making a strong start against the Gunners. Messi came close twice but failed to hit the target and Xavi's back-heel nearly found it's way into the bottom corner.
It was in-fact Arsenal who took the lead at the Nou Camp when Theo Walcott got in-behind with his blistering pace and squared the ball to Niklas Bendtner who had his original shot well saved by Valdes before converting the rebound. Arsenal's lead was short-lived as Messi's attempted through ball was cut-out by Mikel Silvestre but his interception fell back to the feet of the Argentine who blasted the ball into the top left corner to level the scoring.
Messi then created a chance to get his second of the game cutting in from the right and firing a fierce shot into the side netting. Messi grabbed his second of the game following a bit of confusion in the Arsenal defence. Eric Abidal's cross fell to the feet of Pedro who teed-off Messi to fire his shot into the roof of the net.
Now, it wouldn't be one of Messi's greatest games without a chip, would it? Arsenal's awful defending left gaps for Messi to run in one on one with Manuel Almunia and the Argentine calmly chipped the ball over the Spanish keeper to double Barca's lead and effectively end the tie before halftime.
The second half was played in second-gear for Barcelona who were hardly threatened by the English side. Arsenal did have one chance of note when Gael Clichy's early cross caught the Barca defence napping but Bendtner could only power his header against the post. Messi got his fourth in the 87th minute when he picked up the ball 35-yards out, was pushed wide by the Arsenal defence but still managed to slot the ball in-between Almunia's legs to make it four for Messi and 4-1 to Barcelona.
Agree with our list? Leave a comment with your favourite Messi moment down below.