Has anyone ever doubted Lionel Messi’s talent? If so, his performance in Barcelona’s 5-3 win over Granada on Tuesday gave further proof to why he is the best player in the world. With his almost typical hat trick, Messi became Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer. Barça’s storied history has included greats such as Johann Cruyff, Ronaldinho, and the man whose record Messi broke, Cesar Rodriguez.
At just 24 years of age, Lionel Messi has already flown by the most goals record for Barcelona, has tied the most goals in a season in La Liga record which he can pass this weekend, and, with so much time left in his career, he could set a record for goals so high that no one could ever pass.
“We are before the best player in absolutely every facet,” Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said. “He is capable of everything that a football player must do and he does it every three days. I am sorry for those who want to dethrone him, but he is simply different from all the rest. Messi has entered the history of the club at just 24 years of age. If he continues like this in the coming years, he will score so many goals that he will never be surpassed.”
Like Pep Guardiola said, the little maestro can do everything almost perfectly and makes watching him so aesthetically pleasing. His mesmerizing touch, eagle eye vision, crafty guile, perfect dribbling, and calm finishing, among his other skills, are what makes him the best in the world. Never getting caught up in his excellence or arrogant about his skill, Messi is always thankful because he would never be as good as he is without being on the best passing team in the world.
“Messi was calm as always after the game and thanked us all for our efforts,” said Cristian Tello, teammate of Messi’s, said after the game.
Although it is quite possibly the most underappreciated or unreported story in U.S sports’ news, there is no doubt that what he did was quite unbelievable and spectacular, and he’s only 24! It seems the only way to slow him down now would be to change the rules.
After dominating a rather weak group, Barcelona came into the Round of 16 confident. Against Bayer Leverkusen, it was more of the same from the Blaugranes. Controlling the ball well, they had a lion’s share of the possession, 75%, and used patience and opportune attacks to beat their German opponents. This was not hard as Bayer gave the ball away very easily, which led to one of Alexis Sánchez’s goals. Leverkusen, like many other teams, could not contain Lionel Messi as he continued to float balls over the top, one of which was latched onto and dispatched sweetly by Sánchez. The Germans only easy chance was a high cross which was headed home by Michel Kadlec, and this game has all but confirmed that this matchup may be a walk in the park for Barça.
Flying under the radar as they entered the tournament, Apoel Nicosia won their group and booked their next round matchup against French giants Lyon. Though Apoel is the only Cypriot side to ever reach the Round of 16, they did not show the endeavor or inspiration that was so prevalent in getting them this far. Their only shot came in the 88th minute which produced a fine save from French international Hugo Lloris. Unlike Apoel, Lyon had many opportunities on goal, but only five found the target, one being the fine finish from Alexandre Lacazette that gave them the victory.
As the temperatures continued to drop at the Stadion Petrovskiy in St Petersburg, there was still a game that needed to be played between Zenit and SL Benfica. The frigid temperatures hovered between 5 and 10 degrees the whole game, but watching the cold spectacle was well worth it. Maxi Pereira of Benfica put his side up after an error by Zenit goalkeeper Yuri Zhevnov, but Zenit’s Roman Shirokov quickly drew his side level after a well taken volley. After the break, the fireworks began as Sergei Semak scored after brilliant team play. Then, shortly after, Benfica looked to have snatched a draw when another Zhevnov howler allowed Oscar Cardozo finish from close range, but just two minutes later Benfica conceded a killer as Shirokov completed his brace and assured a win for the Russians.
Yet again, defense is the reason for the bemoaning of the Gunner faithful. Arsenal never looked settled at the San Siro and were humiliatingly torn apart 4-0 by the Rossoneri. Milan’s Kevin Prince-Boateng struck a beauty to put AC up in the 15th minute, and, from then on, it was pure domination. In the 38th, Zlatan Ibrahimović crossed for Robinho to tap in from 6 yards out. Things got worse quickly for Arsenal before halftime as their impressive defender Laurent Koscielny limped off the pitch and was replaced by Johan Djourou. After halftime, Robinho took advantage of Thomas Vermaelen’s slip outside of the box as he slammed home the clincher from 18 yards out. Any hopes of comeback were ended in the 78th minute, when Koscielny’s replacement Djourou clumsily knocked over Ibrahimović to concede a penalty, which the big Swede slotted into the bottom right corner, leaving Arsenal with a lot of work to do in the 2nd leg at the Emirates Stadium on March 6th.