Can you consider 5 years have handed since Barcelona last lifted the Champions League? I’m positive if you happen to’d told Lionel Messi, after their 3-1 success over Juventus in 2015, that he can be compelled to wait over half a decade to style such success once more, he would have prompt shedding the liquor.
In that five-year interval, the Argentine celebrity turned 30, supposedly hitting – and surpassing – his peak. Part of that sentence is true, not less than. Now aged 33, logic dictates that time is working out for this evergreen alien.
If we’re supposed to have the opportunity to spot any sign of a minuscule chink in his armour although, he is making it very laborious to select, certainly. It’s no secret that the Barça magician holds a serious obsession with profitable one other Champions League trophy, and la Blaugrana’s lack of progress within the competitors has led to many questioning whether or not he should leave Camp Nou to have fun success number 5.
But Messi is not going to want to achieve this away from Barcelona. The forward has devoted his whole career to the Catalan giants, and leaping ship to search his own personal glory and recognition within the form of trophies would taint his picture as the best player on the planet – and presumably the best we have ever seen.
So, as the years tick by and Barça proceed to bottle probability after superb probability to end their mini-drought, the strain solely builds on their fragile superstars to step up to their chief’s degree one final time. A troublesome ask.
Considering Messi delivered essentially the most goals and assists in La Liga this season, and broke one other insane number of records, it might sound churlish to say that he stepped up his own efficiency in opposition to Napoli.
He did, although. The winger was a man possessed within the first half, tearing Mario Rui and Kalidou Koulibaly to shreds, stamping his mark on the game with a goal, a harshly disallowed second, after which profitable a penalty for Barça’s third. Each act demonstrated the varied, fantastic strings to his bow.
His first goal was classic Messi. Riding tackles, conserving the ball glued to his toes, before bending an exquisite finish into the far corner from an acute angle, all while surrounded by a number of opponents. His next moment of genius was torn away from him, and he’ll really feel very laborious accomplished by on this one.
As the ball flew into his path on the sting of the six-yard field, everybody paused to see how he would tuck his effort away. A volley? A header? Nope. Messi waited, waited, and waited some more, enjoying as if time bent to his will, before chesting the ball down into his own path and rattling it home. Damn VAR.
The Argentina international then won a spot-kick via his relentless laborious work and want to succeed, as his harassing of Koulibaly led the Senegalese star into kicking straight via his adversary’s calf. Putting his physique within the line of fire for his teammates.
You would suppose so, right?
With Barcelona, nothing is ever straight-forward anymore. As quickly as the Catalan giants secured their three-goal buffer, the game flipped on its head. A lazy tackle from Ivan Rakitic introduced down Dries Mertens within the field, permitting Lorenzo Insigne to carry Napoli inside two.
With that one kick of a ball, Barça’s players abruptly started to bear in mind. In the blink of an eye fixed, the picture of Kostas Manolas flicking a header into the underside corner of the net on the Stadio Olimpico flashed via everybody’s thoughts.
The immortal phrases, ‘Corner taken rapidly – Origiiii!’ assaulted the ears of every Blaugrana star. They had previous for this kind of collapse – and their achilles heel started to rear its ugly head once more.
It has to be said, even Messi looked like he was reliving a nightmare he’d not solely had to endure in each dream for the last two years, but one he’d had the displeasure of experiencing twice in reality. The number 10’s decision-making grew to become clouded within the second half, his crisp dribbling looked barely clunkier, and you can really feel the burden and strain shift immediately onto his shoulders – as his teammates began to cover within the Camp Nou shadows.
Barça retreated, sinking deeper into their own territory and had been let off when Arek Milik’s highly effective header was dominated out for offside. An enormous moment of their Champions League journey. Had that goal have stood, we might actually have seen what this Blaugrana side is made of – or not.
As it was nevertheless, the hosts held on. They rode their luck at instances, but general, it was snug, regardless of the large drop off of their efficiency ranges as the strain grew. A minor sign of progress, anyway.
And with that 3-1 victory, Barcelona supporters can dream. With Real Madrid and Juventus already bowing out of the competitors, the trail to the final feels much more possible. Victory over Bayern on Friday, and we will actually start to consider.
Still very much the underdogs, the Catalan trustworthy might be cautious of their optimism. But with Messi determined to decide his own destiny, something is feasible.