Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Biting Back: Even half fit, Maestro Messi is best on planet

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Lionel Messi of Barcelona looks on during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match between Barcelona and Paris St Germain at Nou Camp on April 10
Lionel Messi of Barcelona looks on during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match between Barcelona and Paris St Germain at Nou Camp on April 10

It is true then. Even half fit, Lionel Messi is still the best player on the planet. What a footballer. What a man.

You may not have thought it possible for his reputation to soar any more, but it did on Wednesday night.

He wasn't supposed to be playing, having picked up an injury the previous week.

Messi was named on the bench, sheltered from the action on the Nou Camp pitch, only to be used in emergency.

That emergency came when Paris St Germain scored a goal early in the second half that would take them through to the semi-finals and knock Messi's Barcelona out.

The French side deserved it. They had become the better side. Then Messi took to the pitch and everything changed.

It wasn't actually his breathtaking football that transformed the match, it was his mere presence that made the difference.

Suddenly the Barcelona players were performing like we know they can and PSG weren't performing much at all, blinded by the brightest sporting star in the world.

Needing a goal to keep Barca in the competition, the Argentine duly provided one for his pal Pedro.

Supersub. Superman. Super to watch.

For all the talent of Xavi, Iniesta, Daniel Alves, Alba and the rest, Barcelona weren't super without him.

Best club side of all time? That label should only be applied when the maestro, magician, majestic Messi is on the pitch.

If he stays there for the rest of the Champions League campaign, Barca will win it again.

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