Beware of lethal Lionel

Beware of lethal Lionel

The sight of James Milner, nutmegged and left sitting on his bum, summed up the magnificence of one man.

Even by Lionel Messi's high standards, this was pure poetry.

In a glorious performance yesterday morning (Singapore time), the Argentinian mesmerised opponents and spectators alike through a combination of supremacy and football sorcery.

The Nou Camp faithful was held spellbound. Manchester City were humiliated. And Messi once more returned to football's vertex.

Barcelona strolled into the Champions League's last eight with all guns blazing. Messi entered the scene last, on a white stallion, with a smoking barrel in hand.

Barcelona's superiority in the 1-0 win (3-1 on aggregate) over City wasn't reflected on the scoreboard.

The display, though, surely sent shudders up rivals' spines.

City's players were so rattled and confused by the hosts' passing and movement that they couldn't stop colliding into one another.

They were so stretched by Barcelona's brilliance that they were gasping for air towards the end.

One wonders how Manuel Pellegrini's men are going to recover from such a psychological trauma.

Barcelona have set the benchmark for this season's Champions League.

With Messi in such form at this stage of the season, they are clearly the team to beat.

Pellegrini, in comparing the Catalan club with competition favourites Bayern Munich, said: "Barca always have the added bonus of having Messi."

If not for Joe Hart's phenomenal form in City's goal, the score might have read 8-0 instead.

Messi fired the most shots (eight), completed the most passes (68), created the most chances (five) and accomplished the most dribbles (11).

He induced such fear and panic in the City penalty box that the defending champions of the English Premier League were made to look like novices.

And yet, not long ago, it appeared the player was a victim of fame that came too early.

Losing out to Cristiano Ronaldo in two consecutive Fifa Ballon d'Or had some wondering if the 27-year-old was on the wane.

That notion sounds silly now.

FINDING FORM

This season, he has chalked up eight goals and three assists from eight Champions League appearances, and 32 goals and 14 assists in the La Liga.

Messi himself admitted that he had "gone from being a disaster to being in the best form of my career".

His teammate Ivan Rakitic, scorer of the game's solitary goal which Messi set up, went even further, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the away fans.

"I think even the City players probably enjoyed watching Messi tonight," he said.

The forward's sizzling form is lifting his team closer and closer to the coveted Treble.

Seventeen wins in their last 18 matches in all competitions have put them in the final of the Copa del Rey, the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and also given them a one-point lead at the top of the Spanish La Liga.

Barcelona have clicked into top gear. Messi looks unstoppable.

If a game of football can ever be won by one man alone, it's the Messi-cian.

Just ask Milner.


This article was first published on March 20, 2015.
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