Lionel Messi Leaves Barcelona: Looking Back At La Pulga’s Top 5 Barca Performances
The unthinkable has finally happened! Even though Messi himself expressed his intention to leave Barcelona, many football fans took it with a grain of salt. In fact, both parties did reach an agreement, which would have kept Messi at Catalonia for five more years. Unfortunately, Barcelona failed to meet La Liga’s wage cap. Meaning, they can’t afford to keep Messi at the club anymore.
The news took the football world by surprise. All these years, Messi and Barcelona seemed inseparable. After spending 21 years in the youth ranks and senior team of Barcelona, Lionel Messi will be playing for a new team next season unless a dramatic turn of events waits ahead of us.
The Argentine produced countless brilliant performances as he guided the Blaugrana to win ten La Liga and four Champions League titles. It’s nearly impossible to isolate five performances from his 778 Barca outings as his ultimate best, but we decided to go for it anyway.
5. Barcelona 3-3 Real Madrid (March 10, 2007)
This was Lionel Messi’s first-ever El-Clasico for the Barcelona senior team. Most players would have remembered the day for the rest of their lives even if they didn’t make any significant contribution to the match. Messi, however, is no ordinary footballer and didn’t pass up the chance to show the world what he is capable of.
Barcelona were at the top of the league while Real Madrid were three places behind them in the point table when the Catalonians hosted their arch-rivals in the 06/07 season. Los Blancos knew that they needed to win to revitalize their title charge. Real Madrid were desperate to take the game to Barca, and they were rewarded with an early lead through Ruud van Nistelrooy before Messi restored parity for the home team.
Real Madrid got back their lead, only to let Messi equalize again. Iker Casillas compellingly witnessed a magnificent volley from the 19 year old making its way into the furthest corner of the net. But, the sigh of relief among the home crowd was shortlived as Oleguer Presas left the field seeing a red card. Barca was reduced to 10 men, and soon they fell behind once again.
With the clock racing past the 90-minute mark, it seems evident that Barcelona were going to taste a demoralizing defeat to their biggest rivals in their own backyard. But, the might was yet to see more magic from Barca’s Argentine prodigy. Messi latched on to a Ronaldinho pass and scored his third to complete his hat-trick, and grab a point for his side.
4. Real Madrid 2-3 Barcelona (April 23, 2017)
Late season El Clasicos are always special. Apart from the bragging rights, the match also holds significant importance to get an edge in the title race. On April 23, 2017, Barcelona and Real Madrid locked horns with incredibly high stakes. Zinedine Zidane’s men were already three points ahead of Barca with a game on hand. Dropping points would have virtually ended Barca’s La Liga ambitions.
Real Madrid drew first blood as Casemiro opened the scoring. The start to the match was far from ideal for Barcelona, and a few minutes later, things got even worse. Marcelo’s flailing elbow caught Messi’s face, and the number 10 was left spitting blood on the pitch. Thankfully, he was able to resume playing after getting medical attention.
With a blood-soaked tissue grasped between his lips, Messi produced one of the finest displays of his life. For Barcelona’s first goal, Messi started the move passing the ball to Sergio Busquets. He ran into the box, got the ball back from Ivan Rakitic, and then sent the ball past Keylor Navas to make it 1-1. Rakitic scored to put the visitors ahead, but James Rodriguez came off the bench to hand 10-man Madrid a lifeline.
The second minute into injury time, Jordi Alba cut back the ball into the Madrid box. It found Messi, and he took care of the rest. After scoring the match decider, Messi took off his shirt and held it in front of Santiago Bernabeu’s Fondo Sur stand. The man who had caused Real Madrid fans so much agony over the years had done it again!
3. Barcelona 2-0 Manchester United (Champions League Final, May 27, 2009)
May 27 was the first time Lionel Messi went head to head with his future nemesis, Cristiano Ronaldo. In their first duel, the Argentine had the first laugh. A legendary Barcelona side took on an equally iconic Manchester United team at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico in the Champions League final. The Red Devils were defending champions of the competition, while Barcelona were on the verge of becoming the first Spanish side to win the treble.
Barcelona dominated the game from the get-go and cemented their stranglehold with Samuel Eto’s opener. Messi had a brilliant game as usual, but it was one standout moment that would make all Messi fans remember this game especially. Despite his many gifts as a footballer, Messi’s average height prevented him from becoming a frequent header of the ball.
But Messi beat Rio Ferdinand, who is seven inches taller than him, to head the ball home for Barcelona’s second goal. Messi overcame the pull of gravity and jumped at an astonishing height to reach Xavi’s cross. In a future interview, Messi declared it as his most favourite goal among the ones he scored.
2. Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich (Champions League Semi Final, May 6, 2015)
Pep Guardiola had returned to Camp Nou for the first time since his departure from Barcelona. Guardiola, who enjoyed tremendous success at Barcelona, were in charge of Bayern Munich this time around. For the 76th minute of the game, the ex-defender felt it’s going to be a pleasant homecoming experience since the scores were locked in 0-0, and Bayern could build on this in the second leg at the Allianz Arena.
Things went downhill for Guardiola’s men beyond that point as Lionel Messi took things into his own hands. After beating Manuel Neuer with a low drive, Messi backed it up with a goal that would make any footballer envious. He humiliated Jerome Boateng and Manuel Neuer with back to back nutmegs and rattled the net. He ended the night with an assist to Neymar’s goal to take a three-goal lead to Munich.
1. Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal (Champions League Quarter Final, April 6, 2010)
On the back of a 2-2 draw in the first leg, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal were confident to upset Barcelona at Camp Nou in the second leg. In the 18th minute, Nicklas Bendtner’s goal momentarily put Arsenal in the driving seat. Three minutes later, Lionel Messi exploited Mikael Silvestre’s mistake and cancelled Arsenal’s lead. Little did the Gunners know that this was only the beginning of their suffering.
Messi got the better of Gael Clichy and fired home his second in the 37th minute. A chip in the 42nd minute completed Messi’s hat-trick and sealed the fate of the tie. An 87th-minute strike from the Argentine made him only the sixth player in history to score four goals in a Champions League match.
- Lewis Davison