There is ongoing debate on whether Messi is the best player or not. I say no. Why? As I have a different conjecture altogether. Messi is not human at all. He is an extra-terrestrial creature sent from the planet ‘Messitron’ to wreck havoc on defenses of the poor human football clubs.
The best way to stop Messi is when you play with 11 men and then you can double mark him, one player to stay on him and the other to help out. If it is 11 against 10 then you have almost no chance of stopping him.” Jose Mourinho on Messi.
Lionel Messi is the best footballer in the world. Period. He was declared as THE Diego Maradona’s successor by Maradona himself. His legacy is synonymous to greatness. Passion, confidence and dedication – these three traits epitomize Messi’s persona. One moment he was just a tiny teenager from Rosario, the next he is nothing less than a God. He is the best ever. Now that I’ve given you an ostentatious preface, I hope you will continue reading.
So, here is a list of momentously magical moments which never fail to make an impact on us. These are chronological in order.
On May 1, 2005, the Argentine scored his first goal for the Blaugrana via a Ronaldinho assist, which was the gateway to success and accolades. In a La Liga match against Albacete Balompie, Samuel Eto’o had already put the Catalans 1-0 up when Messi doubled the score by effortlessly chipping the ball over oncoming goalkeeper Raul Valbuena, making him, at 17 years 10 months and seven days old, the club’s youngest ever goalscorer. He started the move by controlling the ball amidst much defensive pressure and passed the ball to Ronaldinho, who scooped the ball to provide Messi the vital cross. That goal may not have been his best, but it was certainly the beginning of something special.
Hat-trick against Real Madrid
Goal – Good. Brace – Better. Hat-trick – BEST! That was the quality of the goals the tiny wizard scored in El Clasico at Camp Nou. And all three times he scored, Barcelona were trailing. And best of the lot, the one that completed his hat-trick, came in injury time. Having lost the leg at the Bernabeu 2-0, a double defeat would have been shaming. Dutch legend Ruud Van Nistelrooy gave the Los Blancos a lead just 4 minutes into the game. Messi responded within 10 minutes by driving a low shot past Iker Casillas. Nistelrooy made it advantage Real almost immediately, but Messi levelled at the half hour mark with a thunderous volley. With 20 minutes remaining, Sergio Ramos made it 3-2 via a header. And then in injury time, Messi scored the Goal of the Evening. Dribbling past a couple of players, he shot past the helpless Casillas. And he was only 19.
“The other day I saw one of his games. He was running with the ball at a hundred percent full speed, I don’t know how many touches he took, maybe five or six, but the ball was glued to his foot. It’s practically impossible!” Raul on Messi.
Goal against Getafe CF
On June 22, 1986, Diego Maradona scored the greatest individual goal ever. Hector Enrique passed the ball to Maradona ten metres in his own half. 10–seconds, 60 meters and six beaten players later, Maradona had scored in what was later labelled the ‘Goal of the Century’. Let’s leap to 18 April 2007. Barcelona against Getafe CF at Camp Nou in the Copa del Rey. Xavi passes the ball to Messi 10 metres in his own half. 12 seconds, 55 meters and 6 beaten players later, the feeling of déjà vu was overwhelming. Barely a month after scoring a hat-trick in the Clasico, Messi scored a goal jarringly similar to the one scored by Maradona against England. He had single-handedly dissected the pitiful Getafe CF defense. Messi was dubbed ‘Messidona’. In my opinion, the goal was outrageously beautiful.
Winning the Ballon d’Or 2009
Upon the departure of Ronaldinho, Messi earned the No. 10 shirt in the 2008-09 season. With the season coming to a closure, Messi scored a brace in a 6-2 annihilation of Real Madrid, which proved to be the stimulus to the La Liga triumph. In the Copa del Rey final, Messi scored one and set up two in a 4-1 hammering of Atletico Madrid. And then arrived the most awaited night of the season. The Champions League Final. At the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, the match between Barcelona and Manchester United, which surprisingly, was not a keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller. Barcelona tasted victory via goals from Samuel Eto’o and our protagonist in the 10th and 70th minute respectively, thus, resulting in remarkable treble for Barcelona. And Messi had a key role in all three competitions, and his contributions were not to go in vain as he won the 2009 Ballon d’Or beating runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo by a massive 240 points. That night, most prominently, he had outshone his adversary, Cristiano Ronaldo. They had shared the same pitch and Messi was simply a class apart. Messi was the Best Footballer in the World, and that evening he stamped his authority on that title. For the first time in Messi’s career, his accomplishments and contributions on the field were being recognized on a high scale.
“Once he’s on the run, Messi is unstoppable. He’s the only player who can change direction at such a pace.
He is the best player in the world by some distance. He’s like a PlayStation. He can take advantage of every mistake we make.” Arsene Wenger on Messi after his team’s quarterfinal defeat against Barcelona.
5 goals against Bayer Leverkusen
This was a classic example of toying with the opposition defense. Breaking his own record, which he set against Arsenal, Messi, on that night, was simply unplayable. Having already won the away leg 3-1, Barcelona were on a roll. And they were on seventh heaven when they obliterated the German outfit Bayer Leverkusen, 7-1. The match wasn’t between FCB and Bayer but Messi and Bayer. It was a sheer moment of brilliance. His first and third were chips while his second was scored through an array of defenders. Messi tapped in his fourth after a mistake by fumbling goalkeeper Bernd Leno. His fifth and final one was the best of the lot as he curled in a left footed shot past Leno. Christian Tello scored a brace on his Champions League debut scoring on either side of Messi’s fourth. Final score: 7-1. It was a classic demonstration of ‘How to destroy the opponent’s defense in 90 minutes’.
86th goal vs Real Betis
On 9 December, 2012, Gerd Muller, to say the least, had an awkward day. In 1972, the former German legend set the record for the most number of goals in a calendar year. And on the 9th of December at the Estadio Benito Villamarin, our protagonist broke a record which stood for 40 solid years. Messi got the ball in front of the box and began a slanting run all the way to the edge of the box and took a shot with his highly revered left foot. Goal! Betis keeper Casto had no chance as the ball drifted away into the far post. He went on to score a brace that day, and by the end of the year, he had scored a whopping 91 goals in a calendar year for club and country. Just another record Messi trounced. Muller later said, “My record stood for 40 years – 85 goals in a year – and now the best player in the world has broken it, and I’m delighted for him. He is an incredible player, gigantic.”