Some players have been great scorers. Some have been great a free kicks. Some have been great dribblers. Some have had great speed. Some have been game-changers. Some have been great captains. Some have been known for their guts and competitive edge.
But only one player has been all of the above. His name is Lionel Messi.
The 31-year-old virtuoso continues to marvel as an undisputed leader who scores goals not of this world, who cuts through opponents like a hot knife through butter, who passes the ball with uncanny precision, and who, when required, even becomes a feared defender. Messi is the total footballer. He is unstoppable. That’s why he wears the captain’s armband and why the team follows his lead.
“We promise we’ll do everything possible to bring that beautiful and desired cup back home,” Messi said at the start of the season.
That objective keeps getting closer. Messi is the reason why no team has won a Champions League game at Camp Nou in six years. Messi is the reason why the international press are drooling.
Nobody really knows what Messi’s limit is. He reinvents himself season after season and, almost inexplicably, he keeps getting better and better. He scored his 600th career goal on Wednesday night against Liverpool with a 30-yard free-kick that was perfectly placed in the upper left corner. And it came exactly 14 years to the day after his first official goal, which he fired into the very same net. Messi’s brace versus Liverpool was his third two-goal game in three Champions League semifinals. He did it at Real Madrid in 2011, versus Bayern Munich in 2015, and now against Liverpool.
The perfect kick
It’s hard to understand how, after 87 grueling minutes against Liverpool, Messi was able to summon the energy to step up to a 30-yard free-kick and put it in the only place where the goalkeeper could not save it. It was a true work of art, sending the season-high crowd at Camp Nou into pandemonium. It was also his eighth free-kick goal this season, another personal best. He now has 42 such goals in his career.
26 goals against the Premier
Messi does not play in the English Premier League. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at his numbers. Messi has 26 career goals against teams from the English top flight, including Arsenal (9), Chelsea (3), Manchester United (4), Manchester City (6), Tottenham (2), and Liverpool (2). Only two players, who actually play in the Premier League, have more: Kun Agüero (43) and Jamie Vardy (29). Messi is from another universe.