7 Moments That Prove Messi Is Barcelona’s Jon Snow Against the Coming of the Long Night

Lead Photo: Photo licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Photo licensed under CC BY 2.0.
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They ended last season with MSN. They will start the new season with M. This has been a summer of discontent at FC Barcelona, a great institution at the feet of ruins. Neymar left, Paulinho was drafted in. Whisper it, but the blaugrana seem to be in decline. Barcelona’s downfall was there for all to see against Real Madrid in the Spanish Supercup: the leaky defense, the mechanical midfield, and an unhinged frontline. Where was the much lauded philosophy of Barcelona?

For the first time in years, Barcelona played with an inferiority complex. They knew that their rivals from the Spanish capital were better; hell, Gerard Piqué said as much, and no one hates Real more than he does. At times, the ease of Madrid’s play was condescending. They flaunted a winning culture, but with a Barcelona-esque style of play, pressing high up the field, retaining possession quickly and playing staccato one-touch football.

Lionel Messi struggled to lead his team for one of the first times ever. At the age of 30, his genteel game, arched on feints, sideway springs, and matrix of simple movements remain a thrill, but is demanding he carry his team perhaps too much? Even his outsize star and twinkling feet couldn’t soften the Catalonian decay, the way he has in the past. He will have to if Barcelona is to salvage the end of his era, however. No matter who they bring in on the transfer market, Messi’s importance to Barcelona will always be paramount, whether they’re soaring or rebuilding.

Here is a compilation that highlights just how far the Argentine has carried his club; can he once again take on the mantle of the Prince That Was Promised and deliver Barcelona from the incoming Long Night? Only one way to find out…

Barcelona - Getafe 5-2, Copa Del Rey, April 18, 2007

The 19-year-old, with the floppy hair of the mid 2000s, was a Messi-dona, one who arrived with the proclamation that he was to be the beautiful game’s alchemist and ultimate thaumaturge. Soccer often produces memorable moments when the game has already been played, when it no longer matters. Barcelona were out on their knees in the second leg semi-finals of the Spanish Cup when Xavi, in his own half, spread the ball out wide to Messi. The diminutive Argentine left Javier Paredes, Nacho Perez, David Belenguer, David Cortes and goalkeeper Luis Garcia in his slipstream with subtle touches, a nutmeg and dainty feints, sliding his way into history with what is still his best goal yet.

Barcelona - Manchester United 2-0,  Champions League, May 27, 2009

The little genius always delivers on the big occasions. In the early days of the rivalry of the greats, Messi was accused of not having the all-around ability of Cristiano Ronaldo, his nemesis, who always croons about self-improvement. Messi was a superlative footballer, with his cerebral vision, a magic dribble, and a nous for goal-scoring, but he didn’t know how to head a ball. In the Champions League final against Manchester United in Rome, he dispelled any such notion when he connected with a divine Xavi cross. He rose and rose in the night sky to send a looping header over a grappling Edwin Van Der Sar and seal a famous European Cup win for Barcelona, beginning in earnest the Ronaldo-Messi saga that has come to dominate the last decade of world soccer.


Barcelona - Arsenal 4-1, Champions League, April 6, 2010

Not that Barcelona were in a hole, but in the second leg Messi dazzled, single-handedly dominating Arsenal, so often hailed as ‘a mini Barcelona’ under the guidance of their evergreen coach Arsene Wenger. Messi was at the center of everything Barcelona mustered. With four goals, he dumped the London club out of the European Cup, just a week after Arsenal had put up a fight with a 2-2 draw at the Emirates.

At just 22, he overtook Rivaldo as Barcelona’s all-time top scorer in the Champions League. “I don’t know how many players in the world who could score that fourth goal he scored,” lamented Wenger after the game. “It looks impossible but he makes it possible.”

Barcelona - Leverkusen 7-1, Champions League, March 7, 2012

Confirmation yet again that he was the world’s best and key to Barcelona’s fortunes.  A game of Messianic brilliance, with Lionel, naturally, as the protagonist. Barcelona was almost certain to win the game and tie versus an overmatches Leverkusen, but they still delivered a mesmerizing spectacle. The Argentinean became the first player to score five goals in a Champions League fixture. His class was yet again extraordinary and Barcelona belonged to another galaxy. Messi was central in Barcelona’s exquisite display in which they completed 865 passes.

91 goals in a calendar year, 2012-2013

In 1972, German goal poacher and legend Gerd Muller set the record for the most goals in a calendar year. In December 2012, Lionel Messi eclipsed that record with his traditional efficiency and precision. His 86th goal that year, a low-angled shot passed the helpless Real Betis custodian, broke a record that had stood for 40 years. Muller later commented: “My record stood for 40 years – 85 goals in a year – and now the best player in the world has broken it, and I’m delighted for him. He is an incredible player, gigantic.” Messi would go on to score 91 goals in 2012 and a key in Barcelona’s La Liga winning campaign.

Barcelona - Bayern Munich 3-0, Champions League, May 6, 2015

Perhaps this was Messi’s greatest individual 90 minutes at the Camp Nou. On a night where he breezed past German champions Bayern Munich as if they were a first-round Copa del Rey minnow, it was easy to get drunk on superlatives. Here was a magician, who enthralled us once more with his skill set. It was not the repetition, but the simplicity and beauty that exhilarated fans. Messi feigned to pass Jerome Boateng on the inside, but glided to his right, leaving the defender, Manuel Neuer and Rafinha all flabbergasted on their back. Here was a genius, excelling on the grandest of stages against elite opponents at a vital moment in the biggest club competition in the world.

The final against Juventus confirmed it, but it was on this night that Messi all but won Barcelona their 4th Champions League trophy.

Real Madrid - Barcelona 2-3, La Liga, April 23, 2017

The most recent instance, but possibly the most emphatic of them all. With the last attack of the game, Messi delivered another superlative finish, his 500th Barcelona goal, in the fortress of Barcelona’s biggest rivals, to keep their La Liga hopes alive. The Argentinean took off his shirt and–in a celebration that launched a million reactions–he implored Madrid fans to read his name slowly. Messi and Barcelona were back in the title race, but on a remarkable night that was perhaps of secondary consideration: Messi and ‘Lucho’ hadn’t been consigned to antiquity just yet, but rather, when the day would come, this was how they wanted to be remembered.