Lionel Messi is in the news again, after breaking Barcelona’s scoring record with his 234th goal for the club at the weekend. It’s a mind-boggling achievement for a player who doesn’t turn 25 until June.
Debates over whether Messi is the greatest ever player are now well-worn. He’s certainly a strong contender, but sometimes in sport, it’s enough just to enjoy a sublime, one-off talent.
And what a talent the Argentinian maestro is. When dribbling, the ball remains utterly glued to his feet. His vision and imagination are consistently gobsmacking. His work-rate is tireless. His first touch is as delicate as a Zidane or a Bergkamp. And for a man who stands at only 1.69m – hardly towering in soccer terms – his heading is highly accomplished.
Nor is Messi a flat-track bully. At club level, he makes an impact in almost all of the big games, and has scored in both of the Champions League finals that Barcelona have won in the last three years.
The only gap on his CV is a defining performance at a World Cup. But, as the Champions League is now arguably a more difficult tournament to win, this may be easier to forgive – plus, he was dreadfully misused by an erratic coach at South Africa in 2010.
He’s also in a great team, of course. Xavi, Puyol, Fabregas, Iniesta, Villa, and more recently Tello – these are special talents in their own right, and this Barcelona team is rightly lauded. But Messi’s goalscoring feats continue to elevate him above even this crop of players.
And Messi doesn’t only score lots of goals – he scores great goals. So here, in no particular order, are five of his finest:
BARCELONA vs. Getafe, April 18, 2007
What were you doing at 19? Messi was slaloming through the Getafe side in front of 95,000 fans, for a goal oddly reminiscent of Maradona’s 1986 solo effort against England.
Real Madrid vs. BARCELONA, April 27, 2011
Here’s Messi pulling a similar trick against fellow European giants Real Madrid in a Champions League semi-final. In just seven touches, half a team are left on their backsides.
Real Zaragoza vs. BARCELONA, March 22, 2010
He might be small, but this is not an easily cowed player. Here, Messi fights ferociously for the ball, before emerging with possession and producing another trademark solo run.
Atletico Madrid vs. BARCELONA, February 26, 2012
He can take pretty good free-kicks as well … this curling-away-from-goal stunner sums up Messi’s imagination.
BARCELONA vs. BARCELONA, Date unknown
Yes, Messi versus his own team-mates in training. Imagine having to play against this terror every day.