May 1, 2005. A 17 year old scraggy-haired youngster scooped the ball over the top of Albacete goalkeeper Raul Valbuena , courtesy of a magical lobbed pass from the Brazilian maestro Ronaldinho. The beautiful finish, which would soon turn out to be one of the iconic sights in football in years to come, suggested a lot about his confidence and a talent which was beyond his age. It became an iconic image, a teenage Messi mounted on Ronaldinho’s shoulders with great joy on his young face and a crowded Camp Nou cheering a goal which ushered Barca towards a first league title in five years after a 2-0 win over Albacete.
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Over 12 years and more than 500 goals later, Lionel Messi has won it all with the club. Blessed with a magical dribbling ability, a magnificent left foot and a wonderful vision to create chances for his teammates, he is often compared with true legends of the game like Argentina’s Diego Maradona and Manchester United’s great George Best, and is often regarded to be one of the greatest players of all time, if not the best. The 5 time Ballon D’Or winner was a key part of the famous Pep Guaridola’s revolutionary Barcelona squad that won the sextuple in 2009. As the Argentinian magician turns 30 today, let’s take a look at some of his finest performances over the years.
1) 4 goals vs Arsenal in UCL Quarterfinal (2010):
Arsenal had gone ahead thanks to a Nicolas Bendtner goal at the Camp Nou. With the aggregate 3-2, Arsenal fans were dreaming of an unlikely victory against the Catalans to progress to the semi finals of the 2010 Champions League. Unfortunately for the travelling fans, they reckoned without the Messi factor. In a dominating performance that would see the travelling Arsenal fans give the Argentinian magician a standing ovation, Messi scored all four goals against the Gunners, inclusive of a spectacular long range effort, with the final aggregate ended in a 6-3 victory for the Catalans. Barcelona ultimately lost to Inter in the semi finals that year, but plaudits and fans alike agree that this was probably one of Messi’s finest performances, if not the best .
2) Manchester United in UCL final (2011):
Although admittedly Messi has had better games , his performance against Manchester United in the Champions League Final of the 2011 season is higher up this list because of the sheer magnitude of the game. With the game level at 1-1, courtesy of goals from Pedro and Wayne Rooney, the Argentine along with Xavi and Andres Iniesta turned up the heat. With a complete dominant display at the centre of the field, Messi capped a fine performance with a magnificent long range goal which gave Barcelona the lead at a crucial stage. Barcelona went on to win the match 3-1.
3) Bayer Leverkusen in UCL group stage (2012):
Lionel Messi stunned the world with a magnificent performance against German side Bayer Leverkusen. Putting past 5 goals past Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno in what was a spectacular performance from the Catalan side, Messi was at the heart of everything, from dropping deep to receive the ball to spreading the play and most importantly to score 5 goals. Not bad for a forward player!!
4) Bayern Munich in UCL semi-final (2015) :
Arguably this is the most memorable performance from the Argentine. The return leg at the Camp Nou, which also saw the return of Pep Guardiola , was goalless and was heading into the tense final 15 minutes when Messi happened. He scored in the 77th and the 80th minute of the game and also set up Neymar for the third goal and saw Barcelona progress to the final with the final score 3-0. The match is also memorable for Messi turning and breaking into the penalty box leaving Jerome Boeteng for dead and magnificiently chipping the ball over 6’4 Manuel Neuer .
5) Real Madrid (2007) :
Over the years, El Clasico has seen some memorable performances , goals and fantastic players in action . It was in the year 2007 when one more such player threatened to enter into the list of all time greats to have played this highly anticipated fixture. Oleguer Presas’s sending off just before half-time had given Real Madrid every chance of leaving Catalonia with an unlikely three points. But then a 19 year old teenager foiled all such ideas. Three times Los Blancos took the lead, three times Messi scored to equalise. It was Messi’s first senior hat trick, and this performance elavated him to one of the best players of the world at the time. Messi would go on to be the highest scorer in El Clasicos in years to come.
Honorouble Mentions :
Hattrick against Brazil (2012)
Manchester United in UCL Final(2009)
AC Milan in round of 16(2013)
Hat trick against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu(2014)