Lionel Messi’s name is synonymous with one word – class. Be it his free kicks, or his dribbling skills, or the fact that he is the all-time top scorer for Barcelona in all competitions. Considered by many as the best player in the world, Messi went one above his rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, when he won the Ballon D’or ahead of Dutch defender Virgil Van Dijk.
With the pacy winger celebrating his 33rd birthday today, we decided to take a look a few of the Argentina national team captain’s top performance in the FC Barcelona jersey:
Barcelona vs Real Madrid (March 2007)
Any match between Real Madrid and Barcelona is a spicy affair. Just before the world considered Lionel Messi as the best striking talent from Argentina since Diego Maradona, he had to prove his worth in the El Clasico, and he did so with aplomb.
At the ripe age of 19, Lionel Messi showed a glimpse of what he was truly all about when he netted a hat-trick against their arch-rivals. Barcelona might not have won the game, but Messi’s injury-time goal ensured that the Blaugrana left the match with at least one point in the bag. It also showed the La Liga that a new star was born, and Messi had made his case for being a regular starter in the Barcelona setup for years to come.
Barcelona vs Getafe (April 2007)
Lionel Messi has a stupendous record in the Copa Del Rey, just second in the all-time leading scorer ahead of former legend Josep Samitier. The winner of eight Copa Del Rey trophies, Messi has had many brilliant performances in the competition, but this specific one stands above the rest.
Playing Getafe in the semi-final stages of the competition during the calendar year of 2007, Messi scored one of his most iconic goals as a teenager as he sprinted from the halfway line while evading the flying legs of the almost six defenders before outfoxing the goalkeeper and chipping the ball over his head. Messi reportedly rates this goal among his favourite, apart from the header against Manchester United in the Champions League final of 2009.
Barcelona vs Arsenal (March 2010)
During the days when Arsenal were a regular fixture in the Champions League, there were some blistering games which marked moments of individual performances. After beating the North London side in the final of the 2006 Champions League, Arsenal came back from 2-0 to set up an enthralling second leg. However, Messi ruined the show for the Gunner fans yet again.
Although they had taken the lead early on courtesy of a goal by Nicklas Bendtner, Messi ran the show throughout. Messi scored four goals on the night while completing his hat trick (the first of his eight Champions League hat tricks) in almost 25 minutes. The little magician’s performance on that night at the Camp Nou was considered among the best and set up a spicy competition with Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in the next round of the competition.
Barcelona vs Manchester United (May 2011)
Many of Messi’s top performances have come in the UEFA Champions League, with the Argentinean having won four Champions League trophies with the Blaugrana. The Catalonian team brushed aside Real Madrid in the semis to book a spot in the final against Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
Led ably by current Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who instilled the tiki-taka style of play into the Catalan side, the Spanish side brushed aside their English rivals 3-1 with goals from David Villa, Pedro and the Barcelona star himself. The Barca manager stated that Messi’s performance on the pitch was the one that made the difference to help win his second Champions League title with the club while his strike was also his first goal on English soil, an important landmark in his career.
Barcelona vs Real Madrid (August 2011)
A list of Messi’s greatest performances is incomplete without a second mention of a game against Real Madrid. The Supercopa or the Spanish Super Cup has been witness to many a masterclass by the Argentinean legend, and this game was no different.
After drawing the first leg away from home at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Messi scored and assisted both of Barcelona’s goals, he upped the ante in the home leg, scoring an important brace to snatch victory from underneath the noses of their arch-rivals. Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema almost ensured the game went into extra time, but a Messi goal in the 88th minute ensured that he won his fifth Spanish Super Cup, which was also his third consecutive one.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Carl De Souza